The life of a role model can often be a tiring one, but don't tell that to Cain Velasquez. Touted by UFC President Dana White as the first Mexican-American heavyweight champion in the history of combat sports, the native Californian has ripped through the UFC's heavyweight division in unequalled fashion, all the while proudly sporting a "Brown Pride" tattoo across his chest.
Now Velasquez (9-0) has been asked to carry the mantle of the UFC into the new age and defend his title in front of what will likely be the largest audience in the history of mixed marital arts. A win would undoubtedly assist White in attracting the Latino demographic that has long supported the boxing community, and Velasquez is more than willing to bear the heavy burden of expectations.
"I'm happy to be that person for the Mexican people," he said after the UFC on Fox open workouts (via MMA Weekly). "I'm proud to be Mexican, and if I can be a role model for some people, I'm happy to be that person. I'm glad I'm in this position."
In a sport still plagued by ignorant public stereotypes, the 29-year-old has become the perfect ambassador for White to vaunt. The soft-spoken yet articulate son of a Mexican immigrant, Velasquez is the figurehead for a class of industrious, educated fighters that have stormed the ranks of the UFC and reaffirmed the title of "professional athlete".
As the champion professes, the early successes of he and his colleagues have already paid dividends cultivating mixed martial arts past its infancy.
"Every time I go to Mexico, it seems like the sport is growing bigger and bigger," he explained. "It's a good thing. Anybody around the world can watch this sport and automatically just love it."
It's telling that on the crest of history, Velasquez somehow maintains a sense of calm. What this means looking forward to Saturday night remains to be seen, but White and the UFC brass are correct in the sentiment that their champion's spirit is the least of their worries.