UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez is still on the sidelines, but a target for his return is coming more clearly into focus by the day.
Following Velasquez’s most recent victory, over Junior dos Santos at UFC 166 in October, it appeared that the UFC was on course for the champ to next defend his belt this spring in Mexico. That, however, was before Velasquez realized he had a shoulder injury that needed surgery accompanied by several months of rehabilitation.
Velasquez had successful shoulder surgery in December, but with several months of recovery and rehabilitation following the operation, the champ is currently still working to get healthy enough to return to training, let alone fighting.
He is now seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
“I’m towards the end of my rehab right now, more so trying to get that strength back. Still can’t train yet, but hopefully the doctor will clear me soon,” Velasquez told a group of reporters in Dallas on Friday.
A rough target right for his return is somewhere around November with the likelihood that he would defend his belt against the winner of the upcoming fight between Fabricio Werdum and Travis Browne.
With Velasquez sidelined, Werdum, the No. 1 heavyweight contender, will face Browne at UFC on Fox 11 in April.
“I think November sounds good. I think with rehab and everything else that would give me time to get ready,” Velasquez added.
“No predictions yet (on who will win between Werdum and Browne),” he said. “I’m kind of favoring Browne a little bit more, but we’ll see what happens.”
Regardless of the timeframe and the opponent, UFC president Dana White has said the company is waiting for Velasquez, whose father is from Mexico, to make its debut south of the U.S. border.
“Won’t go (to Mexico) without him,” said White. “As soon as he’s ready, we’ll do it. We’re ready as soon as he’s ready. We can go to Ireland without Conor McGregor, but going into Mexico without Cain would be silly.”
And that’s just fine by Velasquez. He’s steadfastly working to regain his health, in no small part because he wants to be the UFC’s opening salvo into Mexico.
“It’s one of my dreams to fight there,” said Velasquez. “I’m gonna do everything in my power to make that happen.”