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Cain Velasquez acknowledges 'things have to change' in training after rash of injuries

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. -- Mention the name Cain Velasquez and you'd only get superlatives in response. The best heavyweight ever. Baddest man on the planet. Athletic freak. Cardio machine.

Now? The first thing that pops into mind when you hear Velasquez's name is the word "injuries."

In a mixed martial arts world where main events being scuttled due to fighters getting hurt in training is a weekly occurrence, Velasquez has become the poster boy. The former UFC heavyweight champion has pulled out of multiple fights per year over the last few years, because he keeps getting hurt.

Velasquez acknowledges the problem now and vows to do something about it. He said Tuesday at a UFC 200 media lunch that he plans to adjust his training to limit those injuries. Velasquez said he'll cut back on sparring to one or two days a week from three previously.

"From now on, I think some things have to change as far as my training," Velasquez said. "Just to make the fight in general. To be sharp, be in shape, but not take it on the body as much."

It probably set in the hardest for Velasquez earlier this year when he had to withdraw from a title fight against Fabricio Werdum in February due to an injury. Werdum beat Velasquez to win the heavyweight title at UFC 188 last June. Velasquez was motivated to get the belt back, but a painful back injury did not allow for that to happen. He pulled out and then the UFC gave what would have been his title shot to Stipe Miocic at UFC 198 on May 14 in Brazil.

"Really frustrating," Velasquez said. "But again, there's nothing that I could do. The situation I was in, I was so bad where I had to take breaks in between tying my shoe. That's how bad it was."

Velasquez, 33, understood why the UFC passed him up for a title shot in May. He knows he hasn't been active enough to warrant one. When he fought Werdum last June, it was the first time he competed in 20 months. Velasquez understands he has to put a stop to these injury woes if he wants to continue his excellence inside the Octagon.

"With all the injuries and everything else that have happened, the most important thing is making the fight," Velasquez said. "Not just for me, but the fans also. I don't want to be out. I want to be active. I want to fight. That's what I'm here for. This is my job and I love to do it. I want to do it."

The popular former Arizona State wrestler has missed out on opportunities and likely millions of dollars in fight purses due to injuries. His American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose has been pegged as a gym where guys have to pull out of fights a lot, because of multiple injuries recently to Velasquez and UFC light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier. UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold also calls AKA home.

"We do hard workouts that take a toll on your body," Velasquez said. "But definitely it benefits for us when we are healthy and for the fights. It's good and bad, I would say."

Velasquez (13-2) is a two-time UFC heavyweight champion. He knocked out Brock Lesnar to win the belt in 2010 before falling to Junior dos Santos a year later to drop the belt. In that fight, Velasquez went in with a severe knee injury. He came back to defeat dos Santos for the title in 2012 and he beat the Brazilian again in 2013. It's hard to believe, but that second win over dos Santos was the last victory Velasquez owns.

The Mexican American star has a chance to get back on track against Travis Browne at UFC 200 on July 9 in Las Vegas. It's a huge fight, not just because Browne is a top-tier heavyweight and it'll be on one of the biggest cards of all time. It's also just a chance for Velasquez to prove he can make the walk to the Octagon without having to bow out of the fight due to injury.

"I think sparring three times a week for me, I don't think it is as beneficial as for guys first coming into the sport," Velasquez said. "I think cutting it down to two days or maybe even one day [is best].

"As long as I'm in condition and I'm sharp, that's all I need. I've had the time in the ring, I've had the experience in practice. That's all I need."