Updated October 11, 2019 - 6:54 pm
The speed and athleticism of Cain Velasquez was a major factor in determining the outcome of his first UFC heavyweight title bout when he knocked out Brock Lesnar to win the belt in 2010.
When they finally meet in a rematch almost a decade later Oct. 31 in Saudi Arabia, the result will be decided in a writers’ room.
At a news conference Friday at T-Mobile Arena, World Wrestling Entertainment announced that Velasquez would meet Lesnar in the co-main event of the organization’s Crown Jewel event.
Velasquez, who last fought in February and has been limited in MMA because of injuries, said he’s committed to professional wrestling.
“As of right now, the chapter is closed,” Velasquez said about his UFC career. “I’m focused on the task at hand with the WWE. I love this sport. I’m all-in on doing this.”
Velasquez said he will withdraw from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s testing pool, making his retirement from real fighting a bit more formal.
WWE executive vice president Paul Levesque, who performs under the name Triple H, confirmed that the organization signed Velasquez to a long-term deal, but he declined to offer details.
“He signed a deal with us for the foreseeable future,” Levesque said. “I’ve yet to meet the fighter that just outright says, ‘I’m done,’ that doesn’t leave the door open at least a little. I think right now every conversation I’ve had with him, that’s out of his head and he’s laser focused on being a sports entertainer and WWE superstar.”
Velasquez’s journey was jump-started when he attended a WWE event in February 2018 at T-Mobile Arena with close friend Daniel Cormier, a two-division UFC champion.
“It brought back those memories of being a kid and watching it and just having a good time,” Velasquez said. “I decided to have my people contact the WWE so I could go to the training center and mess around and see if I could really do it. I loved it, and I’ve been in talks with them ever since.”
Velasquez joins former UFC superstar Ronda Rousey on the WWE roster and said it’s possible Cormier will follow at some point. Cormier has said he plans to fight one more time in the UFC.
“DC loves it,” Velasquez said of Cormier’s WWE interests. “He’s a big fan. That wouldn’t surprise me.”
Velasquez isn’t the only crossover star who will fight in Saudi Arabia. The WWE also announced that heavyweight boxing champion Tyson Fury will fight WWE star Braun Strowman, though Fury’s participation is seen as more of a cameo.
Jedrzejczyk makes weight
The UFC Fight Night 161 main event will take place Saturday in Tampa, Florida, after a dramatic week leading up to Friday’s weigh-ins.
There was concern early in the week that former women’s strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk would not make weight, and top contender Michelle Waterson indicated she would not fight Jedrzejczyk if that happened.
But Jedrzejczyk weighed in at 115.5 pounds Friday, a half pound under the limit.
Undefeated jiu-jitsu ace Mackenzie Dern also made weight for her return, four months after giving birth to a daughter in June.
Dern, who last fought in May 2018, will face strawweight Amanda Ribas. Dern has missed weight three times in the past, but said she started training two weeks after her daughter was born.
“It’s just keeping me focused, and her smiles are keeping me happy and focused,” Dern said this week. “The weight cut is going great. I think the breastfeeding helps with the weight cut because breastfeeding all the time is keeping my weight down. It’s the best weight cut ever, so I was surprised.”
The main card will stream live on ESPN Plus at 5 p.m. Preliminary card bouts will stream at 2.
UFC launches live betting product
Fans will have an opportunity to wager live during UFC events and have access to fight data in real time after the launch of a new sports betting product.
UFC Event Centre will feature live global in-round betting on every UFC event and include updated data in less than two seconds during broadcasts.
“The UFC brand is extremely powerful and already resonates strongly with the key demographics of global sports betting consumers,” IMG ARENA executive vice president Freddie Longe said. “Through this partnership with UFC, we have been able to develop official products that will help unlock significant value for both UFC and our global sports betting partners.”
Saturday: UFC Fight Night 161 (ESPN Plus), Tampa, Fla.
Thursday: PFL Playoffs (ESPN2), Mandalay Bay Events Center
Friday: UFC on ESPN 6 (ESPN), Boston
Oct. 26: UFC Fight Night 162 (ESPN Plus), Singapore
Oct. 31: PFL Playoffs (ESPN2), Mandalay Bay Events Center
Nov. 2: UFC 244 (ESPN Plus), New York City