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Cain Velasquez: Injury criticisms go 'in one ear and out the other'

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

LOS ANGELES -- Cain Velasquez is stoic in the Octagon and that apparently also extends to social media.

The UFC heavyweight champion has heard all the critics say he's injury prone and that his legacy as one of the best of all time could be affected by inactivity. Velasquez cares very little about what others have to say and hasn't changed a thing about how he prepares for fights.

"Everybody has a voice in this day and age," Velasquez said at a media lunch Monday to promote UFC 188. "Everybody has a voice, but you don't have to listen to it. It's out there, but I let it go in one ear and out the other. It's something that doesn't affect me and it doesn't need to affect me. I focus on what I need to do to get better and that's it. And when I'm ready to fight and I can go out there and fight, I can focus on that. Not focus on what people are saying."

Velasquez has not competed in 20 months, since his fifth-round TKO -- and sheer brutalization -- of Junior dos Santos at UFC 166 on Oct. 19, 2013. He'll attempt to unify the heavyweight title against interim champ Fabricio Werdum at UFC 188 on Saturday in Mexico City.

In the win over dos Santos, Velasquez (13-1) tore his labrum and needed surgery. He was set to return to face Werdum last November in Mexico City, but was forced to withdraw from the main event fight three weeks before due to a torn meniscus in his knee. Mark Hunt replaced Velasquez at UFC 180 in what was made an interim title fight. Werdum knocked Hunt out in the second round.

Previously, Velasquez had a torn meniscus going into his first fight with dos Santos in 2011, one he lost via first-round knockout. Velasquez also tore his rotator cuff when he beat Brock Lesnar for the title in October 2010.

The Mexican-American champion seems to have had more than his fair share of injuries. But these past two, he said, had nothing to do with overtraining. Velasquez, 32, tore his labrum in the dos Santos fight and the knee injury was just wear and tear, he said.

The way Velasquez sees it, he shouldn't change the way he trains at his gym, American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, because his regimen is what got him here. It's the reason he has become champion and one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world.

"We're sparring the same," Velasquez said. "I think the way we get ready gets us ready for a fight. Injuries happen in this sport, but again when guys from AKA go out there and fight, there's never a bad word about us fighting. Our performances are always good. The negative stuff doesn't come out when we fight. We must be doing something right."

And, of course, Velasquez isn't trying to get injured. It's not just the UFC losing main events and fans not seeing one of their favorite fighters. Velasquez has potentially left millions of dollars on the table over the last nearly two years out of action.

"I could have fought at least four times in the past while I was hurt," Velasquez said. "It's a lose-lose. The UFC doesn't get paid and also you don't get paid. We're out there to make a living, so we don't want to get hurt. But again, there's so much time that we put into training for that one moment.

"Focus on what you can do to win this one moment. There's a lot of chips in this. We have so much invested in that one moment. We're just trying to go out there and win that. That's what we're focusing on."

Despite the past, Velasquez has the ability to put potential injury out of his mind during training.

"It doesn't matter to me," he said. "I go in there every training session not worried about what's gonna happen. I'm just worried about getting better and that's it. We never have it in the back of our minds there's a possibility that we could get hurt. Same thing with going into a fight, not having that fear in the back of your mind that something bad might happen."

Perhaps blocking that stuff out, including some of the hate he has received on social media, has been a main ingredient to his success. Velasquez doesn't think critics should bash his training practices since those same practices are the ones that helped earned him the gold belt around his waist.

"It is unfair for people to say that," he said. "People have a voice; you don't have to listen to them, though. That's what I do -- I don't listen to them."