But when you're facing Brock Lesnar, whose success is built at least in part on his uncommon physical attributes, where do you even find such a training partner?
This is the problem that Cain Velasquez's trainer, AKA's Javier Mendez, had to confront over the last several weeks as they prepared for the UFC 121 title fight.
"See, that's the dilemma. Where do you find someone like Brock to train with? You don't. There is no one like him," Mendez told MMA Fighting. "All we can do is bring Division I, high-level wrestlers in, like Daniel Cormier, Mark Ellis. That was it. You can't duplicate Brock."
When you think about it, it makes perfect sense. If there was a big man who could move and grapple like Lesnar, wouldn't he be dominating opponents in the UFC rather than renting himself out as a sparring partner?
The good news, according to Mendez, is that his camp wasn't the only one who had a difficult opponent to mimic.
"I'll be honest with you, duplicating Cain is very difficult as well, because where do you find a heavyweight who can do the wrestling, do the stand-up, the boxing, the jiu-jitsu like he can? Both these guys are hard to bring in sparring partners for. That's just the way it is."
To hear Mendez tell it, he knew fairly early on that some day Velasquez would be right where is this week. After a successful wrestling career at Arizona State, Velasquez walked into the American Kickboxing Academy with great physical and mental gifts, Mendez said.
"I saw something special in him the very first day he came in to train. It was unbelievable, some of the things he did. He knew what I wanted him to do before I actually said it."
One of the first things he noticed, Mendez said, was Velasquez's cardiovascular conditioning, which he says is "completely natural."
It's that cardio that many observers have pointed to as a potential difference-maker in the fight with the larger Lesnar, but Mendez insisted his camp isn't resting their hopes on the big man getting tired down the stretch.
"Cain's got incredible cardio, but what some people are missing, and I'm not one of them, is Brock's going to be in great shape too," Mendez said. "I'm not expecting him to gas like some people might. Like, 'oh, he's going to get tired after two rounds.' No, I don't think so. That man's going to go five rounds. We're going to go five rounds. Cain is looking for five rounds. He's not looking for Brock to gas. He doesn't believe Brock will gas and neither do I."
Looking at the match-up, it's hard not to think that Velasquez will have to try and make up for in speed what he'll be giving up in power against Lesnar. Trying to outmuscle the champion has proved to be a losing proposition in the past, and Velasquez hasn't exactly made a name for himself off of sheer overwhelming force.
But according to Mendez, it's not enough to think that you can simply be too quick for Lesnar. Instead of trying to do everything faster, he said Velasquez's key will be doing everything better than Lesnar.
"He's got to stay active and dictate the pace, but the speed factor, you know, we're not thinking that that's everything, because what about Brock's speed? He's pretty fast too. We're not looking at Brock and thinking, we're faster than him. No, we're looking at him like, we're more technical than him. That's our issue, not speed."
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