MMA champ Velasquez settles into Bay Area home

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MMA champ Velasquez settles into Bay Area home

April 1, 2011MMA PAGE

SAN JOSE (AP) -- Cain Velasquez just moved into a new house in the Bay Area, and he's busy planning his wedding. His team is opening a spacious new gym in San Jose this weekend.

It's almost enough to keep the UFC heavyweight champion's mind off all the training time he's losing in his long rehabilitation from rotator cuff surgery.

"I think I'm just getting rusty a little bit," Velasquez told The Associated Press. "I know that once I get back, I'm going to have some catching up to do. I think this is a perfect moment for me to be in this situation, with the wedding and the house, but it's definitely hard."

Velasquez hurt himself while pounding Brock Lesnar to win his belt last October, and the unbeaten champion hasn't really been able to work since. He just got his arm out of a sling two weeks ago, and he's still a few weeks away from returning to workouts.

Velasquez and trainer Javier Mendez both seem fairly certain he'll be ready to make his first defense in the fall, when he's expected to face the winner of Lesnar's June meeting with Junior Dos Santos in Vancouver.

They also acknowledge they're facing a rough training camp at American Kickboxing Academy's new gym if they hope to keep his belt.

"We're not in a good situation, based on how much work he has to do to catch up," Mendez said. "Those rotator cuff injuries, they're not something to play with, and he's not able to train. He's definitely going to be rusty. The good thing is he's been kept busy by the wedding and all the personal appearances you have to do as the champ, so it's kept his mind occupied."

Velasquez and Michelle Borquez are getting married May 28, and the couple just moved into a new house in Morgan Hill. He's also crossing the globe for personal appearances and endorsement deals, spreading the gospel of mixed martial arts even when he can't participate.

Velasquez has managed to do a bit of cardiovascular work and even spinning classes during his down time, but it's mostly spent waiting. For a fighter who has been in almost nonstop motion since before his wrestling career at Arizona State, it's a tough transition.

"He comes in the gym whenever he can, but he can't do much," Mendez said. "I'm not worried about his focus. I'm worried about the catching up we have to do to get him in the best possible shape. I'd like to say he'd be better than ever in the fall, but it's going to be a very good Cain Velasquez, but not the best Cain Velasquez, because there's going to be some ring rust. I still don't believe anybody is going to beat this kid."

Velasquez has made adjustments to his daily schedule and to his diet, which had to change almost immediately. Although he isn't as big as the hulking Lesnar, his athletic frame still doesn't know how to react to inactivity.

"At first I was eating the way I was when I was fighting, and that wasn't good," Velasquez said. "Now I try to eat less meals during the day, or more meals but less amount of food. I don't get as hungry as I did when I was in training, so it all works out."

Mendez is keeping his original, spartan AKA gym in a strip mall next to a fabric store elsewhere in San Jose, but his new gym is a 27,000-square-foot monument to martial arts. He's partnering with Spectrum Health Center's Manny Camara, who treats several prominent AKA fighters, to build a candy store of a facility with everything from rudimentary wrestling mats and heavy bags to a hyperbaric chamber and X-ray machines.

Although fighters are creatures of habit, Velasquez and Herschel Walker are among the AKA team members who can't wait to relocate.

"They're all looking forward to the fact they can finally go into a gym that's got a swimming pool and showers and sauna and everything else," Mendez said with a laugh. "Everybody is really excited about not having to go anywhere else to get something looked at. We don't have to make an appointment and drive around. Everything is right there."

Camara, a former Brazilian jiujitsu student, is sticking to proven physical therapy techniques in the new gym, but he's also giving chiropractic care, laser therapy for ATP production, vibration platforms and ice baths everything pro athletes in lucrative team sports take for granted, but MMA fighters and boxers can't always access easily.

"The sport is very physically demanding," Camara said. "These fighters experience a great deal of physical and mental stress during the training for that competition, and the ability to heal is something that helps them prolong their career."

Velasquez has embraced the move, and he'll appear at the gym's grand opening Sunday. Later in the month, he's hoping to finally try out some of that sparkling new equipment -- hopefully in training, not rehabilitation.

"I'll always keep evolving with the sport," Velasquez said. "I'll never be left behind. I'm always going to keep getting better. The coaches that we have, they're the best out there."

Vogt's defensive cameo comes straight out of left field

Vogt's defensive cameo comes straight out of left field

OAKLAND — Stephen Vogt made an unexpected appearance in left field Wednesday night, and his performance got approval from a pretty good outfield authority.

Former A’s teammate Josh Reddick was watching from the Houston Astros’ dugout and thought the catcher-by-trade handled himself very well.

“I was talking to (Houston manager) A.J. (Hinch) and I said, ‘It’s gonna be interesting because you know at least one ball’s gonna get to him,’” Reddick said. “You start laughing because four of the five that were hit that inning were hit to him.”

With the A’s bench short-handed, manager Bob Melvin sent Vogt to left after he pinch-hit for Rajai Davis, and indeed Vogt got a workout throughout the top of the eighth. That added a bit of levity to a 5-1 loss that otherwise provided the A’s very little to cheer about.

They were bottled up by Astros right-hander Mike Fiers and four relievers as the Astros won their ninth in a row at the Coliseum and their third straight in this four-game series. A’s starter Sean Manaea was rolling through five scoreless innings before Houston blitzed him for three runs in the sixth. The Astros tacked on a couple more late runs against Oakland’s bullpen and that was enough on a night the A’s mustered just four hits total.

After Vogt delivered an RBI groundout that scored the A’s only run in the seventh, Melvin wanted to keep Vogt’s left-handed bat in the lineup, so he asked the veteran catcher if he could handle left.

“I said yeah, absolutely,” Vogt said.

It’s easy to forget that Vogt came up through the Tampa Bay Rays’ system playing a lot of outfield, and he played more than a dozen games in the outfield in 2014 for the A’s, mostly in right.

He sure got tested. The Astros’ first four hitters of the eighth all hit balls in Vogt’s direction. He got a routine fly from Brian McCann, a difficult low liner off the bat of Yuli Gurriel that he smothered for a single, a double from Alex Bregman that he did a good job cutting off and a sacrifice fly to the warning track from Jake Marisnick.

“I had the adrenaline shot run up and I was loose and ready to go,” Vogt said. “Obviously I was a little more focused than probably your average outfielder out there. I’m glad the first one came to me, otherwise I would have been sweatin’ it for a while.”

Vogt has lost time recently behind the plate against right-handers to Josh Phegley, who has done an effective job controlling the running game. And though you shouldn’t by any means expect to see Melvin running Vogt to the outfield often, you also shouldn’t assume it won’t happen at all.

At some point, the A’s figure to call up catcher Bruce Maxwell as part of the crop of young players they’re trying to give more time too. If the left-handed hitting Maxwell were to share catching duties with Phegley, and if the A’s were to trade Yonder Alonso (again, we’re talking ‘ifs’ here), it’s conceivable Vogt’s left-handed bat could be put to use at spots other than catcher, perhaps at first base or, in a pinch, even the outfield.

His old teammate thinks he could pull it off.

“I remember him playing in right in ’14 when I was (injured),” Reddick said. “He did a pretty good job out there, it’s not like he’s foreign to it. He knows what he’s doing.”

No need for Warriors fans to fret over NBA's projected lower salary cap

No need for Warriors fans to fret over NBA's projected lower salary cap

There is no need for the Warriors fan to grow anxious with the news Wednesday night that the NBA salary cap and luxury tax threshold will be roughly two percent lower than initially projected.

For one, those players committed to returning are not likely to change their minds.

For two, the cap/tax figures also will influence other teams that might target members of the Warriors, such as Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston.

Even with the lower numbers, reported by multiple outlets, Kevin Durant remains in line for a raise from the $26.5 million he made last season, and he already has made clear his intentions to accept less than the $31.8 million the Warriors could’ve paid him.

With the cap expected to be about $99 million instead of the roughly $101 million originally forecast, that figure falls between $30 million and $31 million.

Durant’s willingness to be flexible -- designed to help the team in its attempts to retain Iguodala and maybe Livingston -- remains the most significant factor for the Warriors as they proceed. Even if Durant takes 10 percent less than, say, $31 million, he still would get a modest increase.

Stephen Curry, who also has announced his intention to re-sign with the Warriors, still could receive about $35 million in Year 1 of a five-year contract worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $200 million.

When the numbers are that astronomical, losing a small percentage is not such a crucial factor.

The Warriors surely knew the cap/tax figures would take a hit. Both figures are impacted by revenue generated through the playoffs, which featured only 79 of a possible 105 games.

Only two series -- Jazz-Clippers and Celtics-Wizards -- went the full seven games and eight of the 15 series ended in five or fewer games, including five sweeps.

The Warriors accounted for three of those sweeps.