Former UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez is preparing for a return to the Octagon and when he does return, he’ll do so on a new contract. According to Ariel Helwani of ESPN, Velasquez has struck a new four-fight deal on the verge of his comeback after being out since 2016.
Velasquez is preparing for his first fight since UFC 200 when he defeated Travis Browne by first-round TKO. The former champion had been scheduled to return in December of 2016 in what would would’ve been a rematch against Fabricio Werdum who was then the champion, but Velasquez had to withdraw from that fight due to a back injury.
After taking all of 2017 and 2018 off to recover, Cain Velasquez will return to take on former title contender Francis Ngannou at UFC Phoenix, which will also be the UFC’s first televised event on ESPN. The main event slot will also come with some significance for Velasquez who will become the only fighter to headline the UFC’s first event on the FOX and ESPN television networks.
Francis Ngannou will get another major opportunity in his career when he takes on Velasquez in what could be considered a title-eliminator in a very jumbled heavyweight division. After a whirlwind 2018, Ngannou finds himself against a former champion with a chance to redeem himself in the title hunt if victorious.
Coming off a massive knockout of Alistair Overeem at UFC 218, Ngannou got his first title fight at UFC 220 in January of 2018, but lost by unanimous decision to former champion Stipe Miocic. Ngannou would then have a very lackluster performance against Derrick Lewis at UFC 226 that saw him receive a lot of criticism about his ego and place in the division. “The Predator” would respond to the criticism with a 45-second knockout of Curtis Blaydes at UFC Fight Night 141 in November of 2018.
While Velasquez’s teammate Daniel Cormier is currently the heavyweight champion, “D.C.” has said he would retire in March of 2019 which could mean the fight between Velasquez and Ngannou could be a title eliminator.
Here is the current UFC on ESPN 1 card:
- Cain Velasquez vs Francis Ngannou
- Jimmie Rivera vs Aljamin Sterling
- Ashlee Evans-Smith vs Andrea Lee
- Jodie Esquibel vs Jessica Penne
- Cynthia Calvillo vs Cortney Casey
- Paul Felder vs James Vick
- Alexandra Albu vs Emily Whitmire
- Benito Lopez vs Manny Bermudez
- Kron Gracie (UFC debut) vs Alex Caceres
- Andre Fili vs Myles Jury
- Scott Holtzman vs Nik Lentz
- Renan Barao vs Luke Sanders
- Bryan Barberena vs Vicente Luque