(Here comes the pain…)
Cain Velasquez is a former All-American wrestler and undefeated MMA fighter who has yet to see what the second round looks like in his pro career. This Saturday at UFC Fight Night 17 he faces Octagon newbie Denis Stojnic, and all indications are that Velasquez’s undefeated streak will still be intact on Sunday morning.
In this exclusive interview, Velasquez talks with us about the choice of opponents, his transition from wrestling to MMA, and his thoughts on AKA’s recent dust-up with the UFC over the video game licensing deal.
CagePotato.com: You’re facing a guy who’s making his UFC debut in Denis Stojnic. What do you know about him and how have you been preparing for him?
The only thing I know about him is from watching YouTube videos of him. He’s an aggressive fighter, he throws some wild punches, and he’s an extremely tough dude. I’m working on turning the corner, not really standing there and banging with him, but looking for shots from there for the takedown.
You’re 4-0 and beat a fairly established UFC fighter in Jake O’Brien your last time out. Why do you think the UFC decided to put you up against a guy stepping into the Octagon for the first time?
I’m not really sure, but they did. I’m glad they did because that’s just more ring time for me. When I get up to the big guys, the big names, I’ll be more ready.
If you win this fight do you think you’ll get a chance to challenge some of those bigger names?
You know, I’m not sure. I would think so. I think they want to build me up some and I want to work my way up the ladder. Whoever they want to give me, I’ll take it. I just want more time in there to get some experience to help me feel really comfortable in the cage.
You got into MMA a couple years ago after wrestling at Arizona State. What made you want to do it and how did you get started?
I told my college coach, Tom Ortiz, that I wanted to do MMA when I was a junior there. It was just something I knew I could do. He told me to get done with my season and then he would hook me up with the right people.
He got me with AKA in San Jose and Dwayne Zinkin of Zinkin entertainment. He was good friends with Dwayne Zinkin because Zinkin wrestled at Fresno State. He’s a good guy, and he helped me a lot. Things have been going great ever since I got here and I think my transition has gone really good.
Do you still feel like you’re a wrestler first and everything else second?
No, I don’t. I feel like I’ve been doing this for long enough now that I have a good grasp of everything. My ground game, the jiu-jitsu, the kickboxing, the wrestling, I feel like I can put it all together. I don’t really consider myself a wrestler because I will stand with somebody and I will fight on my feet.
It seems like particularly in some weight classes, like heavyweight and lightweight, for instance, you look around and see it dominated by ex-wrestlers. Why do you think that is?
I think that has to do with a lot of things. I think a lot of the things that you go through in wrestling, and just kind of the work ethic that you develop, prepares you for MMA. I think it’s a lot easier to build off wrestling than other things. If you have a kickboxer come in and try to learn to wrestle, it’s really foreign to him. We already have a good base to start from. We basically just have to build on our stand-up and our jiu-jitsu, and I think wrestlers already have a good knowledge of a lot of the important stuff.
What’s been the hardest part of the transition for you?
I think for me it’s been the jiu-jitsu part of it. Not that it’s so hard learning the techniques, but just the mind-set of jiu-jitsu. You have to be really relaxed, looking for the openings and looking for your submissions. In wrestling it’s very different. It’s more about working. Working for your attacks, your takedowns, your defenses. It’s just a totally different mind-set.
When the situation erupted regarding Jon Fitch’s unwillingness to sign the UFC’s licensing deal, Dana White made some very public and very negative comments about your team and your management. How did you take that?
You know, I just let my managers handle that, and it seemed like everything worked out. It’s all part of the negotiations process. I just worry about the fighting and the training.
But did anyone from the UFC ever say to you that they wished you’d get different management, that they were the problem?
There was stuff online that we heard while it was going on, but that’s about it. I didn’t really worry too much about it. We just kind of said, ‘Well, this our management and they’ll take care of it.’ And they did. They do a great job. They’re going to fight for us, no matter what the conditions are. Their job is to get the best for us and they do that. You don’t have to worry with them that they aren’t looking out for your interests first.
Did it seem to you like you guys at AKA were being singled out because of your management and their resistance to the licensing deal?
That’s what they’re there for. If it wasn’t us who got into with them over this, would it have been another gym? I don’t know. I mean, we cooperate whenever we can, but our managers are there to get the best for us and fight for us. I think any fighter would want his manager to do that for him, so it’s not just like we’re trying to be difficult. It’s all part of the process, though. We just go back and forth until we reach an agreement.
So ideally, who would you like to fight in the UFC’s heavyweight class right now? Who would be a good fight for you?
I think anybody who’s up there would be good for me. I want to fight any of them. Anybody who’s in the top ten of the UFC’s heavyweight division would be a good fight and an intense fight.
Thanks, Cain. Anything else you want to add?
I just want to thank AKA and Dwayne Zinkin and Zinkin Entertainment, and all my training partners and everyone who supports me.