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Cain Velasquez's road to the UFC Heavyweight Title
Defending champion, challenger or anything in-between, it doesn't matter to Cain Velasquez.
A fight is still a fight.
Velasquez is preparing to defend his UFC heavyweight belt against Antonio Silva in UFC 160 May 25 in Las Vegas. Velasquez regained the belt in December after losing it with his only professional loss — Nov. 12, 2011, against Junior Dos Santos.
But a win in UFC 155 over Dos Santos gave him his title back, and now he gets a rematch with “Bigfoot” Silva, whom he beat in a first-round technical knockout on May 26, 2012, to earn the second shot at Dos Santos.
Velasquez, a graduate of Kofa and Arizona State, said defending a title or coming in without a belt doesn't really matter.
“Both things feel the same because there's something on the line,” Velasquez said. “There's a lot riding on this one, just like the last one. My whole goal is to retain this belt, and that's all I'm thinking about right now. There's definitely a lot on this fight, just like the last one.”
Silva has won two fights since the loss to Velasquez, most recently knocking out Alistair Overeem in the third round of their February bout during UFC 156.
“I feel good, but I'm not looking past this fight,” Velasquez said. “This is definitely a whole new fight. He's a famous guy, and they expect the best Bigfoot out there. He's hungry and he wants what I have. So I have to go out there and defend it.”
Velasquez said the gameplan against Silva will be the same as it was a year ago.
“We need to be quicker than him,” Velasquez said. “We're expecting more emotion out of him this time, to be more aggressive this time. We're taking all that into consideration.”
Velasquez was on a media tour through Phoenix earlier this month promoting the fight when tickets were on sale, hitting multiple news outlets for in-person and phone interviews. He said more travel and more exposure is a good thing.
“It's definitely a big positive,” Velasquez said. “Coming back home to Arizona is a great thing, and getting the media involved is great for me.”
Not that he let's it become a distraction as the May date looms closer and closer.
“When the day comes, fight night, I have to perform. That's how I feel,” Velasquez said. “I can't think about anything else. We're doing the whole gameplan of the fight, and I just have to execute it. That's the big thing.”
Velasquez is currently the only UFC fighter from Yuma County, although Aaron Simpson, Efrain Escudero and Edgar Garcia all spent time in mixed-martial arts' top circuit. Kelvin Gastelum is looking to join that list, currently competing on The Ultimate Fighter. The reality show winner gets a UFC contract, and that was the path Escudero used to make the UFC.
Velasquez said he's familiar with Gastelum, a Cibola graduate nine years younger than he.
“I haven't seen him fight or anything, but I've heard from other people that's there a guy from Yuma on Ultimate Fighter,” Velasquez said. “As far as Yuma bringing out amazing athletes, that's something to be proud of right there.”