Cain Velasquez knew going into his first fight with Junior dos Santos in November 2011 that he wasn't even near 100-percent ready.
The UFC heavyweight champion suffered a serious knee injury during his training camp, but rather than pull out of the fight and risk ruining the first ever UFC on Fox show, he pushed through and stepped into the Octagon that night.
Sixty-four seconds later his night was over, his title was gone, and Velasquez had no choice but to live with his decision to fight.
You'll never hear the former champion talk much about the injury that hampered him, or how he didn't stick to the strategy put forth by his coaches that night. Velasquez is more the type that looks ahead instead of making excuses for the past.
Still, it can't be denied as he heads into his rematch with dos Santos at UFC 155, he's a happy man to be healthy and ready to go.
“Just to be able to do stuff in the gym, to actually do your game plan, mentally that just gets you so much stronger. I feel a lot better going in, and that's the best thing I could ask for right now,” Velasquez told MAWeekly Radio about the differences with this fight camp versus the last time he prepared to face dos Santos.
Throughout his athletic career, Velasquez hasn't had to taste defeat often, but it's definitely not a flavor he enjoys. He gained All-American honors as a wrestler at Arizona State, but didn't capture an NCAA title.
That was the last time Velasquez lost anything up until his fight with dos Santos last year. So facing the man that handed him that defeat is of special importance to Velasquez, who is excited to regain the UFC heavyweight belt, but even more importantly he gets the chance to erase the memory of that last fight.
“Getting the win back,” Velasquez answered when asked what's more important in this fight. “And just knowing that you beat the best guys out there to achieve the belt.”
There is an inherent pressure that comes along with this rematch, however. If Velasquez is unsuccessful in a second bid to beat dos Santos, he'll likely never get a third try at it. He'll also fall far, far away from a title shot because so long as dos Santos is champion, Velasquez won't be the man to challenge him.
Velasquez is well aware of all the consequences that go along with a loss, so he rids his mind of it, and focuses only on the things that he can control.
“In those situations, I just think about what I'm going to do when I get out there,” said Velasqeuz. “How I'm going to do it. Plan A, plan B, think about every situation out there. Don't think about the pressure, the pressure of things. Just when I go out there I need to do this, this and this and that's it.”
There are no guarantees in this fight, and Velasquez knows it. Every fighter who says things like “this has been the best training camp of my life” can still lose the next day. So Velasquez isn't making bold predictions.
He's just getting ready the best he can and if he performs to the best of his ability, win, lose or draw, Velasquez knows he'll have left it all in the cage.
“I could be my best, 100-percent and I could still not win the fight,” said Velasquez. “But me knowing that I did everything I could, and that when the bell rings I'm going to do that with a purpose.
“I'm going to punch with a purpose, look for different stuff in the stand up, if it goes to the ground do my best down there. Keep doing all that stuff.”