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Velasquez-dos Santos bout promoting itself

9/21/2011

HOLLYWOOD -- Dana White stepped behind the dais Tuesday afternoon, eager to sell a UFC heavyweight championship contest between Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos that doesn't need much selling.

"I know they're going to bring a great fight," White said. "There's not a doubt in my mind."

Fans who made the news conference at the W Hotel roared their approval. A lot. Sometimes before White, Velsaquez or dos Santos could get their answers out.

"Yes we Cain!" shouted Velasquez supporters. Somewhat surprising was the positive response for dos Santos, who enjoyed his share of support from the 100 or so fans in attendance.

Velasquez has cultivated a strong following in these parts.

"He's been building his whole career," White said. "That's usually the way it works. A guy who continues to put on great, exciting fights in the heavyweight division, plus is Mexican; it's all a winner."

Velasquez's UFC title-taking effort against Brock Lesnar at the Honda Center last year brought about an energy that was f---ing insane," said White. The UFC president expects something similar for a Nov. 12 date featuring mixed martial arts' top two heavyweights.

It certainly wasn't the biggest news conference in UFC history, not even close, but for a fight eight weeks away, with so much on the horizon to look forward to, including another five UFC title fights during that stretch, the interest is already palpable.

Velasquez and dos Santos will make history in the first UFC fight on live network television. Having now wrapped the bulk of their prefight media duties, the pair can refocus their time on preparing for what each perceives to be the most difficult test of his respective career.

"Dos Santos is a great fighter," Velasquez said. "He's looked really tough in his fights."

The 27-year-old Brazilian challenger was told by Luiz Dorea, his longtime trainer and mentor, that Velasquez represents something he hasn't seen before. Velasquez, Dorea informed dos Santos, is as dangerous at it gets and requires his complete attention.

Dos Santos said he's eager to answer the call.

Coming off surgery for a badly torn rotator cuff, Velasquez has only recently amped back into full training mode. Over the next two months, he's locked in for three-a-day practice sessions in San Jose, Calif., at American Kickboxing Academy with a slew of top-class teammates under the guidance of Javier Mendez, Bob Cook and Dave Camarillo. The camp, despite its moniker, is wrestler heavy, and for that reason Velasquez expects strikers to be brought in for sparring purposes.

"For now we're going to rely on the people we have, but we're definitely going to bring someone in," Velasquez said. "We don't know who yet, but I think once we're able to get home again and training again we'll bring someone in."

Dos Santos interrupted his camp with the likes of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Anderson Silva at X-Gym in Brazil to attend to media responsibilities in the States. He likely won't have to make the same sacrifice until fight week.

While Velasquez, an All-American wrestler during his time at Arizona State University, fielded questions from fans, dos Santos smiled and nodded his approval as the champion insinuated he'd be willing to stand and strike.

"If the fight goes standing it's going to be a great fight for the fans," dos Santos promised. "He's a very tough fighter but I think I'm a very tough fighter, too. I feel really, really comfortable fighting standing. If he accepts the fight standing on the feet with me it will be a big war."

That's exactly what White and FOX have to be hoping for. No one knew in 2005 the immense impact Forrest Griffin's wild affair against Stephan Bonnar would have on the fortunes of the sport. There's no mystery here, though. Everyone expects Velasquez-dos Santos to be seen by the largest MMA-watching audience in U.S. history. FOX Sports Media Group president & co-COO Eric Shanks made White laugh when he said the show would pull Two and a Half Men numbers. If nothing else, the fact that FOX has already sold-out advertising for the one-hour broadcast suggests interest is high.

"For the last 10 years we've become as big as we have and we continue to grow because these guys always deliver," White said.

Both men dismissed the notion that there's added pressure in the spotlight, and neither appear ill-prepared to handle the duties that come with such a showcase.

Velasquez (9-0) has been lauded as a special fighter, a one-of-a-kind heavyweight, as his Brazilian jiu-jitsu coach Camarillo puts it, that's never graced mixed martial arts before. The champion, ever humble, won't speak of himself in those terms. But White will: "I think if he gets through Junior dos Santos it proves a lot and he'll be around for a long time."

Cheick Kongo's name was raised several times Tuesday. The big Frenchman had Velasquez out on his feet in 2009, and it was then that the 29-year-old Mexican-American showed his championship mettle.

"In the fight game, in training, you don't want to get your chin tested," Velasquez said.

This is true, but it's also nice knowing what you can take one on the chin when you're required to take it. We don't know yet what dos Santos is capable of handling because, the champion surmises, his defensive boxing technique is strong.

Dos Santos said he plans to land like Kongo -- and why not? he's done it to everyone else -- though there will be one major difference if he does.

"If that happens with me I will enjoy the time better than Kongo," dos Santos said. "I think I will be ready to do that."

There's no animosity between the pair. None is necessary. They're pros in the primes of their career, poised to fight in the equivalent of MMA's introduction to the mainstream. In a sense, Velasquez-dos Santos can be seen as an investment by the UFC, which yanked the fight off pay-per-view -- at the cost of millions of dollars -- and moved it up a week because the promotion wanted to showcase the best MMA has to offer.

White doesn't need to scream from the rafters for people to pay attention to this one. They're already doing it for him.