Unfortunately for Cain Velasquez, his long-awaited return to the Octagon ended in 26 seconds to Francis Ngannou on Sunday night. Two-and-a-half years on the treatment table, culminating in a quick, disheartening defeat.
26 seconds can be a long time in the cage, and it was enough time for Velasquez to pick up a knee injury.
As he and Ngannou came together against the cage – Velasquez hunting the takedown, Ngannou defending resolutely with short punches – the American Kickboxing Academy product felt his knee buckle as Ngannou looked to have landed a counter shovel hook.
But for Velasquez, it was his knee which ended the fight – not his opponent.
“Having a great camp coming in. Everything I said before, like how strong I felt, that was all true. Coming in, [I] felt great out there, relaxed, and then taking that one step I did with my left foot, I just felt something pop. And then, when I tried to take another step, it just gave out on me. My knee gave out on me, I can’t even believe that happened.
“None of the punches grazed me at all, or did anything to myself where I felt like I was unbalanced or anything,” he continued. “It’s just getting in on the inside and it was just a freak thing that happened with my knee.”
Velasquez is rightly concerned about his knee and another possible spell on the sidelines away from competition.
When it comes to his opponent, Velasquez has respect for Ngannou. However, he feels the fight’s outcome can be directly attributed to his own body.
“I have a lot of respect for [N’Gannou]. I have a lot of respect of a lot of fighters,” he said. “That’s just how I am. Before the fight, lot of respect, but I’m there to kill him.
“After the fight, lot of respect, especially for him as a man, as a competitor. I beat myself tonight.”