My questions were answered as we pulled in to the FitRX location in Roselle, Illinois. On the drive there, I wondered how long I would have to wait to meet current UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez. The cramped parking lot showed signs of activity inside the store, but we still found a spot right in front of the entrance.
A handful of kids exited the store clutching (presumably signed) photos of Velasquez. One kid noted that he was taller than the champ (by my estimation he wasn't), while another lamented not grabbing the free samples of protein bars.
FitRX was located in a standalone building, but could be confused for a small shop in a strip mall inside. The store stretched east to west from the entrance; Velasquez stood across from the door, partially shielded by shelves and display cases.
The line began at Velasquez's table and wrapped slightly around the corner. A group of four teenages -- two boys and two girls -- stood in front of us laden with glossy photos, UFC gloves, and Sharpie markers. It wouldn't take more than ten minutes to get to Velasquez.
As we moved ahead, one of the kids was telling the girl what to ask Velasquez -- his favorite sport, whether or not he has a girlfriend. Goofy questions, yes, (and for the record, I believe Cain is married, ladies) but I understood the nervousness. I've met a handful of fighters, but this was the heavyweight champ. Quite literally, the most dangerous unarmed combatant in the world stood less than a first down away.
I'm nervous because I've always been the shy, don't-speak-unless-spoken-to type. It's a skin I've shed gradually over the years, but that inner instinct never really goes away. I'm some sort of journalist now, though, and I'd consider it a failure to shake a hand, take a picture, and mumble my thanks as I moved on with my day.
Velasquez finished signing the last of the gloves (in championship gold). I stepped up, and offered my hand. First thing of note: Cain Velasquez has a weak handshake. Second thing of note: despite an average height (he didn't appear more than a couple inches taller than my 5'11.75" frame), dude is big. Or, rather, thick. His arms, his midsection, his head. Cain Velasquez is a heavyweight.
I asked Cain about his shoulder. Not that it's a unique question, but I figure most of the fans he talks to aren't even aware of his rotator cuff injury, let alone interested enough to ask him about it. He tells me it's good, in that straightforward stoic tone of his.
I took a picture with him. (I decided against putting up a fist ironically.) He signed a picture for me. I thanked him and shook his hand again (still weak).
As we drove off, my dad, who follows the sport vicariously through me, asked me if that guy was a champ. "Heavyweight champ," I said. "He's the guy who beat up Lesnar."
My dad let out a "oh wow" and a smirk, both in regards to the size of Velasquez and the crowd there to meet him.