SAN JOSE, Calif. — Word spread quickly throughout the sprawling American Kickboxing Academy. The big guys were strapping on the protective gear.
Almost everyone in the gym assembled in front of a converted racquetball court that holds a partial mixed-martial arts cage as Daniel Cormier and Cain Velasquez stepped inside. Then, as the small crowd watched silently, two of the UFC’s best sparred lightly in a raw, improvised choreography of strikes and takedowns over a series of five-minute rounds.
Cormier and Velasquez worked at only three-quarters speed, never finishing their attacks. But they also were relentless, always moving. And when Coach Javier Mendez decided they had gone long enough, both men were drenched in sweat, gasping for breath.
This, Cormier said afterward, is why he’s going to be a different fighter on Saturday night at UFC 187 when he gets a second shot at the light heavyweight title in less than five months, facing Anthony “Rumble” Johnson.
“I didn’t have Cain last time,” he said. “Now, I do. He brings out the best in me.”
Who can forget what happened last time?
Thumbnail photo via Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports Images
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