At 34 years of age, former UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez (pictured) has decided now is as better time as any to push all of his chips to the center of the octagon. Velasquez is rolling the dice on the future of his MMA career, and there’s no turning back.
Velasquez’s gamble is two-fold: first and foremeost, Velasquez is part of the five-member fighter board that leads the Mixed Martial Arts Athletes Association (MMAAA), the freshly formed semi-anti-UFC group that is looking to force the the sport’s most prestigious organization into giving its athletes a bigger piece of the pie. Secondly, Velasquez revealed during Wednesday’s MMAAA conference call that he has already scheduled an unspecified surgery following his UFC 207 rematch with Fabricio Werdum.
Let’s dive into Velasquez’s second gamble first, because a victorious outcome could very well be negated due to his involvement with the first.
Werdum is one of only two men to ever beat Velasquez through 16 professional outings. Junior dos Santos knocked Velasquez out in 64 seconds to initially steal his title back in 2011, but Werdum’s win is more impressive because he handled Velasquez for much of three rounds before submitting him to capture the crown.
Velasquez has only fought once since the shocking upset, July’s easy TKO over Travis Browne. Some expected for Velasquez to slide right into a title tilt after that, but Alistair Overeem got the nod. Velasquez promptly turned his attention towards avenging 2015’s loss to Werdum.
Velasquez is a significant odds-on favorite to even the score against the upset specialist, but then again, he was the first time around, as well. However, just ask dos Santos (twice) what it’s like to face an angry Velasquez after beating him.
On the flipside, how serious is the injury that Velasquez needs surgery on? He admitted that he didn’t want to withdraw from the December 30 contest because he “really wanted it.” Who knows how far a second defeats to Werdum will set him back in finding himself back in a championship affair. Furthermore, it would give the UFC a legitimate reason not to give him a title shot for a very long time.
Why is that, you ask? Now let’s examine Velasquez’s first gamble – spearheading the MMAAA charge against the UFC.
MMAAA’s first major hurdle is to get their fellow UFC fighters who are fearful of suffering repercussions to hop aboard their bandwagon. This is more than a legitimate fear, and here Velasquez is as one of five UFC stars who decided he wanted to be the face of the association. Although, Velasquez has the most to lose of the five because, despite not donning the title, many still consider him the world’s best heavyweight, and he may have dug his own grave.
How will Velasquez be received by his bosses during UFC 207 will be interesting, to say the least.
So why would Velasquez decide to speak out against the UFC’s mistreatment of fighters now, knowing that it could cripple his future in the UFC? Well, most believe it’s because he’s represented by Creative Artists Agency (CAA), the talent management firm that is direct rivals with WME-IMG, the company who shelled out $4.2 billion in July to purchase the UFC.
Former UFC bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw, who is also repped by CAA and is one of the five MMAAA board members, has claimed his link to CAA is one of the reasons why he was passed over for an immediate rematch with Dominick Cruz. Whether that’s true or not may never be known.
Actually, if Velasquez plasters Werdum and isn’t granted a title shot after he returns from surgery, we may very well have our answer.
Velasquez decided to roll the dice on his MMA career, but he may find himself in a losing situation even if he wins.