It’s been a long time since the heavyweight division has seen Cain Velasquez.
The former two-time UFC heavyweight champion has missed all of 2017 after being forced to pull out of his Dec. 2016 fight against Fabricio Werdum due to a lingering injury in his back, which ultimately required surgery.
But the light at the end of the tunnel may soon be approaching for Velasquez.
The 35-year-old Velasquez, who in September revealed that he was targeting a 2018 return to action, is finally healthy enough to once again resume training at San Jose’s American Kickboxing Academy, according to his longtime teammate and training partner Daniel Cormier.
“He’s back to training, and it hurts, but it nothing’s felt better for a long time,” Cormier said Monday on The MMA Hour.
Getting prepared for something is amazing but anytime @officialcainvelasquez is in the training room you know training goes to another level. So good to have this dude back, he’s played such a huge part in my journey it’s hard when he’s gone. I know I’m gonna be ready for Volkan. Let’s go!! #ufc220 #weareaka #whereisluke(@lukerockhold ) @americanethanol @metropcs @monsterenergy @7eleven
“It does suck to have to go in there and work with Cain, because he’s so much better than everybody else that’s ever been around, but it’s good to have him, man. Just seeing him back doing what he loves to do, it’s amazing as a friend and as a fan of mixed martial arts, because if Cain gets back, you guys know what he does for the heavyweight division. He makes for some very, very interesting and fun fights.”
Velasquez last competed in July 2016, scoring a first-round knockout over Travis Browne that earned him ‘Performance of the Night’ honors at UFC 200. His injury woes have halted his momentum ever since, but that reality is unfortunately nothing new for Velasquez, as the former heavyweight champion’s career has been repeatedly derailed over recent years due several long stints on the shelf.
Altogether, Velasquez has fought just twice over the past four years, failing to appear inside the Octagon even once in 2014 and 2017.
That leaves Velasquez as one of the biggest ‘what ifs’ of his era, as the ex-champion has proven to be a dominant force when he is healthy. His 12-2 Octagon record and pair of title reigns in the UFC’s most volatile division can attest to that.
Cormier admitted that he isn’t sure when Velasquez will be ready to fight again. For now, the team is taking things slow. But Cormier believes this past injury layoff changed things for Velasquez, and once the time comes, “DC” hopes his longtime friend will be able to put together the kind of career-defining run that Cormier knows Velasquez is capable of doing.
“It’s a process,” Cormier said. “When you start dealing with some of the injuries that Cain has had, and I’ve seen this since wrestling — backs and necks and all those types of injuries — man, it takes time to recover. And I think, for a long time, Cain may have pushed himself when he should’ve rested, and I believe this time he’s actually taken the time to try to let himself heal, and I feel like this will be a chance for him to make a long, sustained run, much longer than he really has over the course of his career.
“He’s had a lot of injuries at bad times. I talked to Cain about this, and it sucks — for a guy who was talented and committed to the sport, he’s probably lost five years. Can you imagine what Cain Velasquez’s resume would look like without five years worth of time on the shelf? It’s so sad to think about, but I believe that he has finally gotten himself in a position where his body is going to be able to match his work ethic, his mind, his ferociousness, his mentality, everything, and allow him to go on a run — a long, sustained run — to kinda finish out his career.”