SAN JOSE, Calif. — The large, elaborate lettering is impossible to miss when Cain Velasquez takes off his shirt. Two words are stenciled prominently in a semi-circle upon his upper chest.
Velasquez is a serious man of relatively few words, preferring to let his ruthlessly efficient actions inside the Octagon speak for themselves. But the reigning UFC heavyweight champion has something to say. And it all comes back to a tattoo that is so much more than just skin-deep ink. That phrase, a tribute to his Mexican-American roots, explains everything that is important to him.
“It’s who I am,” Velasquez said recently after a workout at the American Kickboxing Academy. “It’s where I came from. It’s who my parents are. It’s how my family struggled. I’m just so, so proud . . .”
His voice trails off.
“All of that,” he added after a pause, “it made me.”
When Velasquez (13-1) steps into the Octagon on Saturday in Mexico City against interim champion Fabricio Werdum (19-5-1) at UFC 188, the stakes will be the highest of his decorated career. The 32-year-old Velasquez hasn’t fought in 20 months due to injuries, and he knows the mixed-martial arts world will be watching closely to see if he remains, well, the baddest and most intimidating man on the planet. Will Velasquez still be the same relentless fighter whom AKA coach Javier Mendez simply calls “The Terminator” because he never, ever stops coming for his opponent?
Thumbnail photo via Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports Images