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Cain Velasquez dismisses UFC 180’s interim title: ‘When I have my chance to fight, we’ll fight for the real one’

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

MEXICO CITY -- It goes without saying, but fight week at UFC 180 hasn't exactly been the festive experience Cain Velasquez expected when he first signed his contract to headline the UFC's grand entry into Mexico. The sidelined heavyweight champion, who was once the lynchpin of the event, is now just an unfortunate side note, forced to hobble around on crutches while Fabricio Werdum and The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America cast soak in the party.

"(I'm) just very disappointed in general," Velasquez admitted on Thursday. "Definitely disappointed. It's one of my dreams to fight here, and not being to do it, it sucks.

"It's kind of bittersweet. I want to be here for the guys that I helped in the show. I want to be here for them and I want to see them succeed. But not being a part of it (is tough). I mean, I always pictured them being here and me being part of it also."

A torn MCL and meniscus in his knee forced Velasquez off UFC 180 less than a month away from fight night -- a turn of events he acknowledged as "devastating" earlier this week. Velasquez is still unclear about a timetable for his return, but UFC President Dana White appeared to set a deadline on Thursday, stating that if the UFC's heavyweight champion is unfit to fight by the time March 2015 rolls around, Velasquez may be stripped of his title.

Injuries have continually plagued Velasquez over the course of his almost two-year reign, and while he's been nothing short of dominant in his two title defenses, Velasquez's inability to stay healthy has largely brought the heavyweight division to a standstill. March will mark the seventeenth month between Velasquez's fights, so considering White's ultimatum, it's not out of the realm of possibility that the winner of UFC 180's main event may ultimately be crowned the true UFC heavyweight champion -- although that's a notion that Velasquez brusquely dismisses.

"It's the interim belt, you know," Velasquez said. "It's the interim belt. We're going to fight for the real one coming up. So I don't think too much into it. When I have my chance to fight, we'll fight for the real one.

"That's how I view it," Velasquez added, "because it's the interim belt. Interim belt, interim champion. Not the champion."