Former two-time UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez returns to the Octagon in the main event of the fight promotion’s debut on ESPN’s main cable network. The 36-year-old last fought in July 2016. Injuries sidelined Velasquez. Now that he’s healthy, the former champ is ready to begin the climb back to the top of the division.
Velasquez (14-2) faces hard-hitting Francis Ngannou (13-3) in the main event of UFC on ESPN: Ngannou vs. Velasquez in Phoenix, Arizona on Sunday. Velasquez didn’t get a warm-up fight in his return. Ngannou is ranked No. 3 in the weight class and is a former title challenger.
Velasquez’ coach, Javier Mendez, thinks Ngannou is the toughest fight for Velasquez in the division other than teammate and titleholder Daniel Cormier.
“It’s the most dangerous fight for Cain,” said Mendez during an appearance on the UFC Unfiltered podcast. “Of course we’ll never fight DC, so outside of DC this is the next toughest challenge for Cain.”
It’s been nearly three years since Velasquez has competed, but his coach believes the former champion is better than ever and motivated to reclaim his crown.
“He’s stronger than he’s ever been. He hits pretty good. His speed is always good. His cardio is off the charts,” said Mendez. “His mentality is the number one thing. He wants it. He really wants to get back in the game and prove he can dominate again.”