Cain Velasquez is a soft-spoken, humble former mixed martial arts (MMA) champion. The American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) standout is certainly not one who stirs the pot badmouthing his opponents nor one who engages in unnecessary, disrespectful pre-fight antics.
Velasquez is truly one of the true gentleman of the sport.
Unfortunately, sometimes the former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) heavyweight champion is controversial in the eyes of unaware fight fans and/or casual viewers even though he does not intend to be.
It's because of the bold "Brown Pride" tattoo that the Mexican-American fighter bears across his barrel chest.
To some, the form of expression Velasquez proudly shows off on his skin may be considered racist and/or offensive. It's viewed as a double standard, meaning a majority of fight fans -- and the general public alike -- would be outraged if a Caucasian fighter emblazoned "White Pride" across his or her chest for the world to see.
According to Velasquez's boss, UFC president Dana White, those comparisons are completely unjustified.
"Completely different. Let me tell you what, if you're saying I should have a tattoo that says 'White Pride,' that tells us where you're at, right off the bat. What 'Brown Pride' means, he's part to be Mexican, he's proud of his heritage. If you're Italian, I grew up, when I lived in Boston you had guys with Italian this, Irish that, you know, everybody had a tattoo on themselves of their ethnic background. There's nothing wrong with Cain Velasquez having a 'Brown Pride' (tattoo). To even make that statement, you're probably some redneck hillbilly out in the middle of the country somewhere and we know where you're at and what you're thinking."
Velasquez later spoke to MMA Heat's Karyn Bryant on the hot topic, elaborating a bit more on the responsibility he feels to serve as a role model for the many Hispanic fans and fighters of the sport. And he explains that he has yet to meet a brave soul willing to confront him about his "controversial" tattoo to his face.
"No, they all keep behind the computer and their keyboards definitely. You know, I've had people come up to me and just say, "It's just been great talking to you," and everything else. Because they've brought up the same thing, stuff that they've read and if they don't know, they've come up to me and talked to me and I've definitely changed their mind on things. It doesn't (weigh heavy on him). I'm glad to be that person you know? Growing up, not having a big role model, you know, someone that looked like me that was bigger, that was Mexican. I didn't have those dreams thinking I can be a professional athlete because there wasn't anyone out there that looked like me when I was little. Now that I am in this position, I am happy to represent, and I'm happy to be that person."
It's a subject that is bound to touch many peoples nerves and one that, sadly, isn't going away anytime soon, despite the fact that were heading into the year 2013.
In fact, "Brown Pride" was even more of an issue when Velasquez was the featured fighter in the promotion's historic network television debut on FOX in Nov. 2011 when he took on Junior dos Santos. There was a preconceived notion that the sport was going to have an uphill climb on its own in regard to winning over new fans and that the UFC should do everything in its power to present a palatable product.
MMAmania.com even did a pre-fight feature on the origins of Velasquez's "Brown Pride" tattoo that you can check out right here.
Regardless of how you may feel about the "double standard," White and Co. clearly have no reservations about the ink and will stand by its proud Mexican fighter for better or worse.
And that's exactly what is going to happen again tomorrow night (Dec. 29, 2012) when Velasquez returns to the Octagon to headline another major event opposite "Cigano" at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.