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."

Sharks' Vlasic out of the lineup again

Sharks' Vlasic out of the lineup again

NASHVILLE – Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic is out of the lineup again.

The defenseman, who didn’t play on Tuesday in Minnesota with the flu and took just one shift in the third period on Friday in Dallas, was scratched for Saturday’s road trip finale against the Predators. The team stated Saturday’s absence was due to his being sick, although it should be noted he was spotted leaving the dressing room on Friday in Dallas not walking completely right.

The Sharks are 2-3-1 in games Vlasic missed this season entering Saturday night. 

Chris Tierney was also scratched, and is day-to-day with an upper body injury. Is was just the second game he has missed this season.

Dylan DeMelo drew into the lineup for Vlasic, while Timo Meier got back in on the fourth line with Micheal Haley and Marcus Sorensen.

Melker Karlsson (lower body) remains out.

Madson focused on his pitching, not his role in A's bullpen

Madson focused on his pitching, not his role in A's bullpen

MESA, Ariz. — Ryan Madson goes about his business getting ready for the season, without much clarity on what his bullpen role will be and hardly wringing his hands over the mystery.

A’s manager Bob Melvin has four veteran relievers with closer experience to choose from to be his ninth-inning man. He said Saturday morning he likely won’t announce that decision until the Bay Bridge Series that leads into Opening Day.

Madson, who rang up 30 saves as Oakland’s primary closer last season, prepares the same during the spring regardless of what inning he might pitch. He sees the numerous closer options as being a benefit for whoever ultimately gets picked for the ninth.

“If I’m doing it and I don’t get it done, there’s guys that will,” Madson said. “It’s not just a one-man show, so that takes the pressure off actually. People would think maybe it adds pressure — you gotta do good so you can have it. To me, it does the exact opposite. That helps me, knowing the more guys you’ve got that can do the job, the easier that job becomes.”

It wouldn’t be a shock if Melvin goes with the 36-year-old Madson as closer to begin the season. He’s the incumbent, and, though he had a 7.50 spring ERA before throwing a scoreless inning Saturday, no one among the trio of John Axford, Santiago Casilla and Sean Doolittle has made an emphatic statement for the job with their Cactus League performance. Axford’s 5.06 ERA is the lowest of those four.

From his comments so far this spring, Melvin seems inclined to use Ryan Dull as an escape artist to enter with men on base, a situation that he excelled in last season.

Regardless of how Melvin lines up his bullpen for the regular season, he’s said that he’s likely to utilize multiple guys in save situations depending on who’s available and who needs rest on a given day.

At this time last year, Madson was assumed to be the eighth-inning setup man with Doolittle handling closer duties. Melvin wound up flip-flopping them for the start of the regular season, and Madson got off to a strong start and remained the closer for most of the year. In his first extended ninth-inning duty since 2011, he notched his second 30-save season but also had seven blown saves, tied for second most in the American League.

“The emotions are different” in the ninth inning, Madson said. “They’re heightened, and so I had to adjust that way. … As long as I can navigate those emotions and put them in the right place, I usually do well when I can do that.”

Entering the second year of a three-year, $22 million contract, Madson said he likes the way he’s rounding into form on the mound despite less-than-glittering numbers.

“When I have good angle on the ball, good deception and good movement, then I get outs and I get ground balls,” he said. “I get strikeouts with the changeup. So if I focus on that, everything else falls in where it needs to.”