The last time the MMA world saw Cain Velasquez inside the UFC’s Octagon, he was pummeling Travis Browne into oblivion in the summer of 2016.
Fast forward to the main event of UFC on ESPN 1 Sunday night inside Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Ariz., and there’s no telling how long the former UFC heavyweight champion will be missing in action.
Velasquez was stopped by Francis Ngannou in just 26 seconds, but the loss isn’t what could cripple the Arizonan’s career; he appeared to suffer yet another knee injury in the fight. Velasquez has already missed multiple years due to knee injuries and rehab, and with him being sent reeling yet again, frustration isn’t a strong enough word to describe how he feels.
“I can’t believe that happened,” Velasquez told the assembled media at the post-fight press conference regarding his knee injury. “I had a great camp coming in. Everything I said was all true. I felt great out there, relaxed. I took that one step with my left foot and I felt something pop. When I took another step, my knee gave out on me. I can’t believe that happened. I was 100 percent healthy. This is hard. It’s really frustrating because the fire in me is stronger than ever.”
Some suggested that the American Kickboxing Academy standout suffered the injury because his equilibrium was shattered by one of Ngannou’s massive punches. Velasquez denied that notion and said that the mighty Cameroonian didn’t even hit him cleanly in the contest.
“He didn’t even, like, touch me,” he said. “It was the knee. Once I felt the knee buckle, that was it. None of his punches did anything to me to where I was unbalanced or anything. It was just a freak thing that happened.”
At the moment, it’s too early to know the extent of Velasquez’s injury, or a timetable for his return. Since he’s been down this road before, Velasquez was certain he injured either his meniscus or MCL, or both. Either way, the former monarch at heavyweight was devastated by what happened to him.
“I felt extremely ready and calm,” he said before leaving the presser. “The Octagon was the place I needed to be. I felt great. Then this freak accident with the knee popping out, it’s just frustrating.”