Cain Velasquez is ready to surprise the wrestling industry again in his first American professional wrestling match. The two-time UFC heavyweight champion is set to invade NYC’s Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater with lucha libre promotion AAA on Sunday, September 15. Velasquez spoke to Still Real To Us in an exclusive interview about why he signed on with the company.
“For me, I wanted to do the traditional lucha libre style. [Lucha] was the first sport that I was a fan of. I remember being around five-years-old, and watching the guys from Mexico,” Velasquez reveals to Still Real To Us. “As a family, we would watch El Santo, Blue Demon, and Mil Máscaras.”
Velasquez’s passion for the wrestling industry continued when he reached grade school. As a young boy, he would be in awe of the larger-than-life superstars after discovering World Wrestling Entertainment. Despite watching WWE, the star says he always imagined wrestling with a mask on for the Mexican-based promotion.
“I always pictured myself wrestling for an organization like AAA, mostly for the style of wrestling. I always liked the flow that the wrestlers used. The acrobatics that they incorporate is incredible,” says Velasquez. “I also loved the traditional aspect of it. At the matches, you would see the grandkids. You would see the parents, and grandparents, too. They would all be there at the events to support each other. That stayed with me, and was very special.”
Velasquez Makes The Transition
Wrestling fans all over the world previously witnessed the UFC legend’s incredible debut at Triplemanía XXVII back in August. Velasquez tagged with AAA star Psycho Clown and AEW EVP Cody against Killer Kross, Texano Jr., and Taurus.
In his first ever match, Velasquez wore a traditional lucha mask and proudly displayed his extensive knowledge for the lucha libre style with a hurricanrana that went viral. He went on to secure a major victory for his team with a kimura lock, ultimately tapping out Texano Jr. in a match that earned praise from even the toughest of online critics. Making the transition from MMA to pro wrestling isn’t easy, and Velasquez has been putting in the serious work to seamlessly pull it off with grace.
“The most difficult thing that I have encountered is learning to take my time, and to really register everything that I am doing in the ring,” Velasquez tells Still Real To Us. “It can be a certain throw, punch, or strike–even being on the receiving end of that. I want to be sure to show the crowd that I can celebrate what I just did, or taking the punishment in.”
When he was on top of the world in MMA as UFC’s heavyweight champion, Velasquez was trained to never show any pain or exhaustion. The fighter had to zero in on his opponents and get the job done as quickly and efficiently as possible. These days, the AAA star realizes that he has more leeway to interact with the audience.
“When I would throw a good punch in the UFC, I couldn’t really go into the crowd and get them pumped up,” says Velasquez. “You can’t do that. You have to go back to business and finish the fight. With pro wrestling, it’s different. I’ve never done that before.”
AAA’s newest prize fighter thinks that he’s going to enjoy the showboat aspect of pro wrestling going forward into his career.
“In MMA, we don’t get to do that until the fight is over–and you have to win in order to do that. You have to pick up the victory to have that moment. If you don’t get it done, it doesn’t happen,” Velasquez laughs. “With this, you do it from walking out to the ring, when you’re in the ring, and after the match, too.”
Learning The Ropes
Becoming a contender in the wrestling world doesn’t happen overnight. Over in sunny San Jose, California, Velasquez has been working with Pro Wrestling Revolution owner Gabriel Ramirez to hone in on his craft. The former UFC champion makes sure to give props to the people who have been showing him the ropes.
“Gabe owns the whole place, and has been helping me out. Especially with the lucha stuff. Also, I would call Vinnie Massaro my coach when it comes to wrestling. I’ve been working a lot with him; studying the psychology of pro wrestling to get those reps in,” states Velasquez. “The more you do it, the more it feels natural. I’m having a lot of fun with it. It’s crazy, because I didn’t expect myself to have this much fun doing it.”
Back in July of 2018, Velasquez visited the WWE Performance Center to train with the stars of NXT. There was a lot of media buzz surrounding his training sessions. For an entire week, Velasquez wanted to test himself to see if wrestling was an art form that he could learn.
“I feel like I picked up on it pretty quickly. I really haven’t done it for that long. I still feel very green in this sport. I’m trying to learn as much as I can. I’m watching different matches from different organizations all of the time,” says Velasquez. “With WWE, I love the storylines. I just got into New Japan. I’ll sit and watch their style of wrestling to see what they do. Now, with AEW, I’ll watch a lot of their stuff because I like that they have a mixture of everything. Of course, I’ll watch AAA as well. I’ll watch the older matches to see the evolution of the sport.”
The Dream Match
With his wife and kids supporting his dream, Velasquez feels like the luckiest man. Not every family is supportive of the hard lifestyle of pro wrestlers, but Velasquez tells Still Real To Us that his family is loving what he’s doing in the ring.
“We watch wrestling as a family. We’ll all kind of wrestle together as well. It’s something that brought us all closer together. We’re big fans of it,” says the AAA star.
Of course, with Cain now competing in the squared circle, fans want to see potential dream matches. One of the potential match-ups that fans are demanding is Velasquez going up against WWE’s Brock Lesnar. Back in 2010, Velasquez notoriously put the bloody smackdown on Lesnar at the Honda Center to become the new UFC heavyweight champion. As far as seeing the two compete in a wrestling match? Velasquez says don’t rule it out down the line.
“As of right now, I want to just get better. I want to have matches with all of the stars in wrestling,” Velasquez tells Still Real To Us. “I heard a lot of talk about people who want to see me against Brock Lesnar. We’ll see. People want to see that. I’m down to wrestle whoever.”
Before a potential dream match with Brock, AAA announced that Velasquez will team with Psycho Clown and Brian Cage to face Texano Jr., Taurus, and Scorpion King at their “Invading NY” event this Sunday. The show will also feature the Lucha Bros (Pentagon Jr. and Fenix) defending their AAA tag team titles against LAX (Santana and Ortiz), in addition to Tessa Blanchard defending the AAA Reina de Reinas title against Taya Valkyrie. Blue Demon Jr. is also set to face Dr. Wagner Jr. in what should be a memorable contest.
Tickets to AAA’s “Invading NY” event at the Hulu Theater can be purchased HERE. The pay-per-view will also be available to fans worldwide on FITE TV.
Photographs were provided by Kevin Jackson Jr. You can find more of Kevin’s work by clicking HERE and following him on Instagram. To read more exclusive interviews on Still Real To Us featuring your favorite wrestlers, click HERE.