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Cain Velasquez says he would have left MMA if UFC contract didn’t ‘make sense’

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WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — UFC 200 might have been the last time fans saw Cain Velasquez in the Octagon if the UFC had not made a comeback worth his while.

The former two-time UFC heavyweight champion said his return from injury was contingent upon a new UFC contract. In the end, the two sides came to an agreement and Velasquez will fight Francis Ngannou in the main event of UFC Phoenix on Sunday. It is the first-ever UFC main card on big ESPN.

“It all had to make sense as well for me to come back,” Velasquez said at a media day Tuesday. “Again, it takes a lot out of me from a training aspect. But I love it. I love what I do, I love to go out there and train. I love to train with high intensity. I’m so competitive. I’m so competitive in just my daily life, that’s just how I am. Even when I go in to train, I try to back off a little bit. It’s just the competitiveness in me. To go out there and to win, even in small things. It’s good and bad, but again when everything goes right then you get the best Cain out there.”

Velasquez, 36, said he’s now satisfied with where he and the UFC are contractually.

“It’s something that I’m happy with,” Velasquez said. “Something that for me and my family makes sense. Now that we got all that squared away and I took the time to get everything right, I’m ready.”

Velasquez (14-2) has not fought since a victory over Travis Browne at UFC 200 in July 2016, nearly three years. Yet, despite all the time off, the American Kickboxing Academy product is still considered one of the best heavyweights in the world — and of course, one of the best ever in the weight class.

For years, Velasquez has maintained that he has to train at a very high level, which could lead to injury, if he’s going to be the best fighter possible. And he has not backed off that claim. Which is perhaps part of the reason why it wouldn’t have been the hardest decision to step away from the cage.

“I always thought about it,” Velasquez said. “Just me and my family, we’ve talked about it. My wife and I. Again, if it didn’t make sense, I’d be able to walk away and I would be OK with that. There is life after fighting. It’s all about that. I have kids now. It’s all about that longevity. It just had to all make sense. It has.”

What would Velasquez have done with that constant competitive streak if fighting was no longer in the plans? He’s not sure, but he’s positive he’d find something.

“I’d find it in something,” Velasquez said. “Anything. I mean, whatever I would do, I would find it in something, man. And I would be the best as I could at whatever I found.”