Ahead of his meeting with Travis Browne this weekend at UFC 200, a common question that fans have asked is which version of Cain Velasquez will show up this weekend?
The former heavyweight champion’s career has been marred by injuries and forced withdrawals from high profile contests. Having only contested four bouts in the last four years, a lot of people are questioning whether the Velasquez of old will ever return.
At the height of his powers, you would expect the AKA man to run through even the best version of Travis Browne we’ve seen in the Octagon. However, his inactivity and his last bout resulting in a defeat and the loss of his heavyweight title has a lot of people concerned.
A hallmark of his game had always been the unrelenting pressure and pace he could put on opponents. Yet, on route to his loss against Werdum at UFC 188, Velasquez seemed pretty exhausted before he succumbed to a guillotine choke in the third round. It isn’t only the fans that have been critical of Velasquez’s time on the sidelines; even Dana White has thrown an oar in on a few occasions.
Public Criticism of AKA
After a sprained MCL forced his withdrawal from UFC 180, a card that was relying on him massively as it was UFC’s first visit to Mexico, the UFC president wasn’t best impressed with Velasquez. Although the fans weren’t perturbed as much as many thought they would be as Mark Hunt stepped in to fill Velasquez’s shoes, the majority of the marketing for the event was built around Velasquez.
In an interview that was recorded a few weeks after UFC 180 by Setanta Sports, it was later broadcast in April, White insisted that AKA were still in the “Stone Age” with regard to the intensity of their training sessions.
“Some of the camps are still in the Stone Age and need to be brought up to date,” said White. “AKA is one of those places. You’ve got Cain Velasquez, our heavyweight champion, who’s always hurt.
“Those guys go to war every day. He’s training for a fight and he’s going to war with Daniel Cormier every day. That’s not how it’s done. Not anymore. We need to educate a lot more.”
In what will be music to the MMA Universe’s ears, Velasquez spoke about a new consciousness when it came to his training regiment at yesterday’s press conference.
According to the returning former champ, he has moved away from the hard sessions of the past, which he hopes will stand to him in terms of the longevity of his career going forward.
“In the past, we would come to practice and just have the mentality of just going hard, and sometimes I wouldn’t even stretch, you know?” said Velasquez at yesterday’s press conference.
“I’d just be like, ‘I’m ready to go’, and then I’d go in there and bust my ass. I’d get through practice and I would get beat up. Now, there’s a lot more maintenance. There’s a lot more getting warmed up really well before practice and afterward.
“There have been no injuries in this camp and I feel good. It’s helped a lot. I can see the longevity now with me doing a lot more maintenance with my body before and after practice. All I can say is that it’s helped me.”
Of course, Velasquez’s injuries have a big impact on his training partners too, but no one more than light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier. Although we still don’t know whether ‘DC’ will even compete on Saturday night due to the forced withdrawal of Jon Jones after USADA notified him of a potential PED violation, the former Olympian outlined the importance of having Velasquez present throughout his camp.
“I have to have him,” Cormier exclaimed. “I’ve had a lot of success in this sport, and obviously, Cain’s injuries have been well documented. I’ve had success still, but when you’re fighting someone like Jones you’ve got to have your best training partner.
“You’ve got to have someone to push you day to day. You have to work on a level that you haven’t really worked at. So, having Cain there, there are actually very few days that I get to win. It helps me deal with adversity and it helps me raise my level of intensity. It does everything.
“It means the world to me to have him for my preparation for this fight.”
We won’t know whether Velasquez’s new approach has had any impact on his fighting style, or indeed, his longevity. Certainly, for fans of the sport, a heavyweight landscape without a man considered one of the best to ever compete in the bracket would be a lot less interesting. It’s in Velasquez’s interest, UFC interest, and the fans’ interest to see him compete far more frequently.
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