Fabricio Werdum is pretty serious about this whole title fight thing.
Two months ago, he moved his entire camp — coaches, training partners and all — to Mexico, so his body would already be used to the altitude of Mexico City for UFC 180. Werdum is more prepared than he has ever been in his life and with UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez standing across the Octagon, he better have that mentality.
As long as Werdum has been around and as many important fights he has had over the years, there’s little doubt this is the biggest moment of his career. So when Velasquez had to pull out of the bout with a knee injury last week, you’re damn right Werdum was bummed.
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Velasquez’s presence in the main event in the UFC’s first-ever event in Mexico was vital. The organization waited for the Mexican-American champion to get healthy before even attempting to hold a show in Mexico. Now, he’s injured again.
"I’m definitely a little disappointed and this will take a little bit from the fight, because Cain has such a big following there and support," Werdum told FOX Sports through an interpreter. "It’s disappointing Cain won’t be there, but it’s still a historic, great event."
Werdum’s chance to show everyone he’s the best heavyweight in the world has been scrapped for the moment. He’ll have to settle for a bout against Mark Hunt, a very dangerous opponent but not someone on the level of Velasquez.
It’s disappointing Cain won’t be there, but it’s still a historic, great event.
On the bright spot, Werdum (18-5-1) has a greater chance of leaving Mexico City with gold now, even if it isn’t the true belt. The Brazilian is a -530 favorite over Hunt (+350), according to the 5 Dimes sports betting site.
It’s pretty clear to see why, too. Werdum is more well-rounded than Hunt, at least if we’re not talking about girth. While Werdum has been training at altitude for two months, Hunt just fought in September and weighed more than 300 pounds when he accepted the bout.
"I definitely feel I’ll have a small advantage over Mark Hunt," Werdum said. "You definitely feel the altitude when you’re training in Mexico it’s definitely impactful when training there. It takes the body some getting used to."
As of this week, Hunt has flown to Mexico from his native New Zealand and his team is meeting him there shortly. Hunt (10-8-1) fought at altitude once in the UFC, in September 2011 against Ben Rothwell in Denver, and it was an abysmal fight. Granted, Hunt did come away victorious. But a ready Werdum is a different animal.
Velasquez had surgery this week to repair his meniscus and MCL. He’s out until the spring, according to reports. But who knows? With Velasquez’s lengthy injury history, there’s a solid chance the winner of the UFC 180 main event will be defending the interim title once or more.
That’s why Werdum’s focused hasn’t changed even though his opponent has.
"In my mind, I’m gonna get it," Werdum said of the belt. "I want to get it. This is the ultimate goal."