Former UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez has already accomplished enough inside the Octagon that many consider him to be the greatest of his division. Still, something left Velasquez wanting to continue training and competing despite battling several significant injuries and issues with his contract.
The 36-year-old Velasquez returns to action this Sunday night when he faces Francis Ngannou in the main event of UFC Phoenix. The card marks the first UFC main card to air on ESPN after several bouts have been televised already as part of the new agreement.
For Velasquez, the decision to step back into the Octagon was not one made quickly. He last fought at UFC 200 in 2016 when he bested Travis Browne. Velasquez won his first UFC heavyweight title with a finish of Brock Lesnar.
"It all had to make sense as well for me to come back," Velasquez said (thanks to MMA Fighting for the quotes). "Again, it takes a lot out of me from a training aspect. But I love it. I love what I do, I love to go out there and train. I love to train with high intensity. I'm so competitive. I'm so competitive in just my daily life, that's just how I am. Even when I go in to train, I try to back off a little bit. It's just the competitiveness in me. To go out there and to win, even in small things. It's good and bad, but again when everything goes right then you get the best Cain out there."
Much consideration was made to his physical and mental abilities before coming to an agreement on a new deal with the UFC. Velasquez is now 14-2 and a former NCAA standout wrestler for Arizona State University. He owns multiple wins over Junior dos Santos and Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva, along with Lesnar, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Ben Rothwell.
"It's something that I'm happy with," Velasquez said. "Something that for me my family makes sense. Now that we got all that squared away and I took the time to get everything right, I'm ready."