(What, me worry? / Photo courtesy of Darrell Stein)
Having signed with the promotion with only two MMA bouts under his belt, it’s clear that Cain Velasquez‘s route to the UFC wasn’t as arduous as the paths most fighters take to make it to the big show, but considering he is still undefeated in the Octagon and is set to fight for their heavyweight title, it’s obvious that Zuffa’s gamble paid off.
In a recent interview with GracieMag, Velasquez, who will take on UFC heavyweight champ Brock Lesnar at UFC 121 October 23 in Anaheim, Calif. says that his "tryout" for the UFC wasn’t much more than an impromptu training session in Vegas set up by his manager, Bob Cook, who called Dana White and asked him to check out his star pupil.
According to Velasqez, the UFC president was so impressed with what he saw, he signed him without watching a single one of his fights.
"I had two fights on my CV and wanted to fight in other shows before going to the UFC to get some experience. But It was really hard to get fights with other organizations, so my manager said: ‘We haven’t fought in a long time, we can’t wait any longer. It’s time to call up the UFC.’ He made the call, made Dana White an offer and we went to Vegas," Velasquez recalls. "We took two fighters with us and Dana watched me standing with those two fighters and doing Jiu-Jitsu with another two heavyweight athletes. He liked what he saw and told me I was in the UFC."
Velasquez also says that he abandoned his longtime dream of competing at the Olympic level in wrestling in favor of a career in MMA after he threw his first punch training at American Kickboxing Academy.
"When I was in college, [competing in the Olympics] was one of my objectives. But when I was just doing wrestling I felt there was something missing. So I discovered what was missing was throwing punches," he says. "I wanted to do boxing and kickboxing, throw strikes. That’s why, instead of setting the goal of going to the Olympics, I chose to set out on a career in MMA."
Even before he landed in the UFC, Velasquez was being touted by his AKA teammates like Josh Koscheck, Jon Fitch and Bobby Southworth as "the next big thing" in MMA. It turns out it wasn’t just hype, since just three years after he first trained in MMA and jiu-jitsu Velasquez is at a level some fighters will never reach. Suprisingly, though he says the pressure of his meteoric rise in the UFC hasn’t gotten to him yet.
"I don’t feel any pressure. I’m just conscious that I have to keep training hard in the gym. I don’t pay attention to what people say," he says. "I can’t listen to them. What I have to do is be well-trained and ready to beat my opponent."