Current UFC heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos and former UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez like and respect one another. Dos Santos and former Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem, however, do not (as far as public appearances go). They're also both fairly willing to acknowledge as much in public. That may be why Velasquez, despite being named the top contender to face dos Santos after his UFC 146 victory, could end up losing out on a title shot opportunity.
Here's how this goes: Velasquez vs. Mir at UFC 146 was supposed to determine the number one heavyweight contender. But Overeem, who was supposed to fight Dos Santos, was removed from the card. Velasquez fought Antonio Silva instead while Mir moved on to face Dos Santos. The champion retained his title and Velasquez bested Bigfoot. After the press conference, UFC President seemed to be suggesting all signs were go for a rematch between the Brazilian and the Mexican-American.
"I like that fight," White said in May when asked about a Dos Santos-Velasquez rematch. "Cain deserves the next fight."
That's why despite recent chatter that Alistair Overeem could get a spot on a December card in a title fight against the champion has the AKA product publicly pleading his case. "I'm in line next for a title," Velasquez told Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour on Monday. "For Junior, I have the most respect for him as well as a person and as a fighter. I think he represents the sport very well. But as a champion, if you have a number one contender, then you don't normally get to choose who you fight."
"You just have to fight the number one contender," Velasquez continued. "Then that's it. That just how I feel about it. As a champion, you just fight whoever is next in line. You don't get to pick and choose who you fight."
Velasquez isn't necessarily confused about what's going. He knows why Overeem has suddenly emerged in the picture and why that fight could be made. It's just that he doesn't see this as particularly fair. "I don't think you as champion should choose who you fight. [Junior]'s not ducking me. He's a great competitor. He's a great fighter. I just think him and Overeem and him had some words spoken back and forth to each other and he wants to fight him. He really wants to fight him first, wants to beat him. But you gotta get through me first."
The former heavyweight champion also knows that in a world where fists and chokes decide who wins fights, words and statements can often first determine who is placed in those contests.
"I see that," Velasquez acknowledged. So then why not do it even if you don't believe in the process? "That's just the way I am. I'm definitely going to go out there and show a good fight. But as far as the trash talking beforehand, that's just not my style," he explained.
"I know fans want to see that, but like I said before whoever is next in line, you have to fight him. You being the champion need to fight the guy next in line, not pick and choose who you fight."
In keeping with his tradition of not firing off at the mouth to get attention or new opportunities, Velasquez is mostly mum on the topic of Overeem and his performance enhancing drug or commission issues. It's true he doesn't believe Overeem deserves a title shot despite himself earning one after besting Brock Lesnar in 2011 - "About him being in trouble with testosterone and everything else and then getting a title shot, I definitely don't think it's right" - but all Velasquez cares is what he's done and what he believes is rightfully his.
"With whatever he's going through, I don't really care," Velasquez said. "I just know what I've done to get here. Whatever I was promised, I was promised. That's just how I see it."
There may soon be a resolution to this conflict. Velasquez told Helwani his management is speaking with White either today or sometime this week. Velasquez would prefer to know one way or the other. He's been anticipating a September fight, something that appears unlikely to happen, and has been forced to dial back his training as a consequence of inaction.
That's why the former champion is speaking out now. He's not clamoring in boisterous proclamations, but in the only way he knows how: by pleading a case of merit.
"I definitely want that fight with Junior, so I'm going to do everything in my power to try to get that fight happening," he maintained. "We'll just see how it plays out, I guess. We'll just have to talk to Dana a little bit here and there and see where he stands."
"The only thing you can do is try to get this fight going. That's what I want. I want this fight."