The American Dream had come to Anaheim, California.
Years after to coming to the United States from Mexico to offer a better life to their children, Efrain and Isabel Velasquez watched on October 23rd as their son, Cain, earned the title of heavyweight champion of the world.
“Both my parents were real proud of me that we finally did it,” said the new champ. “It was an amazing feeling that we were all able to experience that together.”
Along with nearly 15,000 fans and countless others watching around the world on Pay-Per-View. But after years of struggle, Velasquez’ sacrifice and subsequent celebration centered on his family, his fiancee, his daughter, and his close-knit team. It was one of the feel-good moments of 2010, mainly because the soft-spoken Californian has been embraced by fans in and out of the sport for his story, his demeanor, and his ability to fight.
“There’s been a great reaction from everybody,” he said. “I’ve heard nothing but good things from people and that makes me feel good. It definitely has surprised me, but it’s good to have the people behind me and believing in me.”
But there would be none of this celebrating if Velasquez didn’t survive the initial rush of then-champion Brock Lesnar at Honda Center a little more than a month ago. At the sound of the bell, Lesnar - a nearly 300 pound Mack truck with no brakes - charged at Velasquez, intent on taking out his most dangerous challenger before he could even get a shot off. It certainly wasn’t what Velasquez and his coaches from the American Kickboxing Academy – Javier Mendez, Bob Cook, and Dave Camarillo – expected.
“We knew he was gonna come out with a lot of pressure, but we didn’t think he was gonna come out that hard,” recalled Velasquez. “It definitely did surprise me and I got into that brawl mode after that, but I just had to tell myself to relax and get back into the fight.”
He got back into it in a big way, rising quickly from two Lesnar takedowns to score his own before finishing off the big man with a crushing series of ground strikes that brought a halt to the bout at 4:12 of the opening round.
Now Cain Velasquez belongs to the world.
Yet despite his quiet nature, he’s embraced his newfound fame, and – partly due to his appearance on the pre-fight UFC Primetime series – it seems like these days, everybody’s a fan of the 28-year old.
“That (letting people see his other side on Primetime) may be one of the reasons, along with my fight style,” he said. “I put on exciting fights and people love to see that, but the show definitely helped.”
To celebrate his victory and introduce him to the world that hasn’t met him already, Velasquez has gone coast to coast and to Mexico to meet with the media and fans. By his estimation, he was home for two days after the fight before hitting the road, but he’s fine with his newfound responsibility as ambassador for the sport, and it hasn’t hurt that he’s had a little company with him as well.
“I’ve been able to bring my fiancee and my baby to Miami and New York, so I’ve been able to spend time with them even though we’re not home,” he said.
At heart though, Velasquez remains a fighter, so when he’s asked if he’s getting itchy to put the gloves back on again, he laughs.
“I’m ready to get back in the gym and start training again,” he said, and if you think he’s going to let some fame get to his head, think again, because he’s already got his first title defense on his mind.
“I haven’t been able to train for him yet, but that first week, I already started thinking about him,” said Velasquez of his next opponent, number one contender Junior dos Santos.
Let the reign begin.
Cain Velasquez - The Champ's World Tour
“We knew he (Lesnar) was gonna come out with a lot of pressure, but we didn’t think he was gonna come out that hard.”