October 13, 2010

Cain VelasquezFormer All-American wrestler. College graduate with a degree in education. Top heavyweight contender in the UFC.

The list of credentials for Arizona native Cain Velasquez continues to grow and grow as he gets ready for his UFC 121 showdown with heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar, and now you can add role model to the list of accolades.

As Velasquez gets ready for the biggest fight of his young career, much of the promotion leading into the fight has focused on his roots as a Mexican-American, and his shot to become the first ever Mexican UFC heavyweight champion.

Knowing the marketing machine is in full effect before any fight, Velasquez is extremely proud of his heritage, and takes it as a sign of honor that he could fulfill that role in just a few short days.

“I’m definitely proud, there really isn’t much of us in this sport, especially being a Mexican heavyweight,” Velasquez told MMAWeekly Radio recently. “I’m just trying to do the best job I can do with it. Hopefully I can inspire some people or make people proud of what I’m building.”

Some athletes shy away from the “role model” moniker. Who can forget Nike’s legendary campaign featuring NBA star Charles Barkley proclaiming, “I am not a role model. I’m not paid to be a role model.”

Velasquez definitely falls on the other side of the argument as he says he’s proud to be a symbol for young people to look up to.

“If I can be that person, I’m honored to be that person,” Velasquez stated. “If I can inspire somebody or kids can look up to me in that way, then definitely, I’ll definitely be that person.”

The Latino market is still a burgeoning area for mixed martial arts. While boxing has been a huge sport in areas like Mexico over the years, MMA is still a fledgling sport trying to find its legs in the new expanding market.

Admitting that it was tough to find sports figures to look up to as a kid growing up, Velasquez relishes the role and hopes to continue to inspire through his actions and words.

“I was in a similar situation growing up as far as not having anyone to look up to,” Velasquez stated. “I didn’t see anybody in the media or on TV that played sports that looked like me. I didn’t have those things growing up. Now that I’m in that position, I’m happy to be that person if I can.”

While Velasquez hopes to continue to inspire the youth, will the pressure of representing a nation and having that promotion about the possibility of being the first ever Mexican heavyweight champion weigh heavy on him come fight night?

“When it comes down to it, I know what I have to do. That’s train hard, and fight, and win. That’s it,” he said.

Velasquez will try to accomplish his own personal dream when he faces Brock Lesnar in the main event of UFC 121 in Anaheim, Calif.