Cain Velasquez has a chance to become the first Latin heavyweight champ in MMA.
For the UFC, Cain Velasquez might be the Great Brown Hope.
The California-born son of Mexican immigrants honors his heritage with the words ''Brown Pride'' tattooed across his chest.
On Saturday at UFC 121, the undefeated Velasquez (8-0) faces champion Brock Lesnar with a chance to become the first Latin heavyweight champion in mixed martial arts.
''It would definitely mean a lot to me,'' Velasquez said. ''Mexicans have a rich heritage in boxing, but to never have a heavyweight champ [in MMA], it's time for the people to have one.''
The pay-per-view event will be held in Anaheim, Calif., where the large Latin population of the region will turn out to support him. On Sunday, hundreds from the Latin community attended a public rally in Los Angeles to support Velasquez.
There have been other prominent Latin fighters in the UFC -- former light-heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz and ''The Ultimate Fighter'' winner Diego Sanchez are also on the card -- but the emergence of the humble, soft-spoken Velasquez comes at a time when the UFC is looking for global expansion, and Velasquez is a big attraction for Latin fight fans. The UFC is playing up this angle in its promos, and Velasquez has made many appearances in Spanish-language media to promote this fight.
''Having a guy that's a Hispanic heavyweight is big,'' UFC president Dana White said. ''What we haven't done is have a show in Mexico, but we're working on that right now. There are some territories that we really want to be in, but it's a little tough getting in there, and Mexico is one of them.''
Velasquez's task Saturday is formidable: He will enter the Octagon 40 pounds lighter than the champ. Lesnar (5-1) features a unique combination of power, athleticism and quickness for a 6-3, 265-pound heavyweight.
Both fighters wrestled in college. Lesnar was an NCAA Division I national champion at Minnesota, and Velasquez wrestled for Arizona State.
Lesnar has been at his best on the ground, using vicious ground-and-pound. But Velasquez said he thinks he has the striking advantage.
Known for having excellent endurance, Velasquez said he wants to push the pace against Lesnar. With championship bouts lasting five rounds, conditioning might be key. Lesnar never has fought a full five-round fight, and Velasquez has gone a full three rounds only once in his career.
Hooks and jabs
UFC 121 marks the UFC debut of Strikeforce middleweight champion Jake Shields. The owner of a 14-fight winning streak, Shields is dropping to the welterweight division to fight Martin Kampmann.
*Two middleweight preliminaries -- Court McGee against Ryan Jensen and Patrick Cote against Tom Lawlor -- will air at 8 p.m. on Spike TV.