Former champion Cain Velasquez in light training with 2018 aims

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Former UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez has resumed training at American Kickboxing Academy, according to head coach Javier Mendez.

Velasquez (14-2) hasn't fought since July 2016 due to a back injury. He was scheduled to face Fabricio Werdum at UFC 207 last December, however the Nevada State Athletic Commission pulled him from the event due to medical concerns.

According to Mendez, Velasquez is still only "recreational training" so far, but will "100 percent" make his Octagon return in 2018.

"He's training," Mendez told ESPN. "It's just a matter of when the managers and UFC gets together to decide a fight date.

"It's really on them. They come to me and say, 'Hey, I got a fight' and I go, 'Oh, who you fighting?' I don't have a Magic 8 ball on that. All I know is he wants to get his title back and he's gonna come back with a vengeance in 2018."

Velasquez, 35, is in the conversation for greatest heavyweight of all time -- but he has struggled to stay active due to a long list of injuries.

In addition to all of 2017, Velasquez missed time in 2010 and 2011 with a shoulder injury, and 2014 with an injured knee.

Despite the long layoff, Velasquez will likely be a candidate for an immediate title shot when he returns. Current champion Stipe Miocic is scheduled to face Francis Ngannou at UFC 220 on Jan. 20.

Mendez said if it's not an immediate title shot, he would prefer a rematch against Werdum, who submitted Velasquez the first time they fought in 2015.

"If [the UFC] says, 'Hey, you get the winner of Miocic, Ngannou' and Cain wants that fight, great," Mendez said. "If that's not on the table, the guy I would want, because he has the 'W' against him, I would want Fabricio at some point."

As far as whom he favors in that upcoming title fight, Mendez says it's a difficult call.

"Man, I don't know," Mendez said. "It just depends if you let Ngannou catch you. I don't know who can take the kind of shot that guy can deliver.

"When I close my eyes, I kind of see Miocic and Cain going at it. I do give a chance to Ngannou, but I just think Miocic is a smart fighter and I see him doing what he needs to do."