clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Enigmatic Brock Lesnar Brings Drawing Power, New Lessons to Velasquez Fight

Whether it's about his career or his personal life, everyone wants to know more about Brock Lesnar. The UFC heavyweight champion seemingly pops into our lives once or twice a year, causes a hail of media coverage, then disappears back to the solitude of his Minnesota ranch.

While Lesnar has a reputation as gruff -- he's even described himself as "ornery" -- he also has a way of slyly, almost innocently, revealing self-reflections that often go unnoticed. In the leadup to his last fight with Shane Carwin, he spoke of his vulnerabilities while going through the sickness that threatened his career. While that was more a physical challenge, Lesnar occasionally touches on the mind games that go along with being a pro athlete.

Yes, even the UFC heavyweight champion questions himself from time to time, as he noted when he spoke about what he learned from the Carwin fight that could help him in his upcoming UFC 121 title defense against Cain Velasquez.

"It think it's just a confidence thing," he said. "You bang around in the gym and you got these 18-20 ounce gloves on and you can take a punch in the gym. But up until the Carwin fight, there was always some question mark in my mind. Plus it was a comeback fight. It was a confidence thing for me. Getting back in there and being able to compete and be the best was probably my main focus."

Indeed, the 33-year-old Lesnar (5-1) truly proved something on that July night in Las Vegas. All along, his body had been declared to be his best asset, but he showed that his mind and heart were both as strong as his outward appearance, as he took a first-round drubbing from the then-unbeaten Carwin and rebounded to win.

There is certainly something to be said for the experience of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, and Lesnar has attempted to build on the momentum gained from that transcendent moment.

"Having the quick turnaround from July to October, I was out of the gym for maybe two weeks then right back in after the Carwin fight," he said. "I picked up the ball and kept running with it."

Lesnar has publicly credited his head trainer Marty Morgan with most of the improvements in his game. While most fighters go away to training camp, Morgan, a former assistant wrestling coach at the University of Minnesota, essentially brings the training camp to Lesnar. The champ has his own training facility on his Alexandria, Minnesota property.

Morgan examines Lesnar's opponent, then decides who he will bring in that can best help Lesnar prepare for the specific set of challenges that lie ahead.

Like Lesnar, Velasquez was a collegiate All-American wrestler, but Velasquez has quickly assimilated into the striking game. In preparing for Velasquez, Morgan brought in UFC heavyweight Pat Barry and unbeaten Strikeforce heavyweight Shane del Rosario, both of whom have successfully competed in pro kickboxing before transitioning into MMA.

"We both probably understand, at least I do, that we have to evolve," Lesnar said. "He poses threats as a wrestler, he poses threats as a boxer, and we both want to improve on everything. My main focus on this camp is to bring guys to bring me up to another level. You've got to force yourself into situations that you're not going to be comfortable with and that's how you get better."

While some have criticized Lesnar for not widening his net and working with other coaches and partners, he scoffs at such talk, saying that he believes in his coaching staff and would not be comfortable leaving his family for extended periods of time after spending so much time on the road during his brief but wildly successful run as a professional wrestler.

"If I need somebody, they come to my house," he said. "I don't need to get on an airplane and be away from my family. Been there, done that."

Though Lesnar frequently presents a brash exterior, he also turns realist surprisingly often. While many fighters have no qualms about predicting the round and method of victory, Lesnar readily admits that he has no idea what might happen when the cage door shuts behind him.

When one reporter asked him if the fight was more likely to be fought as a kickboxing match or a grappling match, that side of him came through again.

"I don't know what's going to happen," he said. "Do you? Tell me. If you've got the crystal ball let me know."

He may not know for certain, but he's doing all he can to put the odds in his favor. Well aware of Velasquez's speed and conditioning, he's much leaner than he's been in years, saying that on Thursday morning he was already 265 pounds, the heavyweight limit. In the past, he's cut as much as 12-15 pounds during fight week.

His new diet also has him eating cleaner and recovering faster, and Morgan has said that at 33, Lesnar seems to be entering his athletic peak.

"If there's one thing I'm in control of on October 23rd, it's my conditioning," Lesnar said. "If there's one thing I can control it's how I show up on fight night, and what kind of condition I'm in. That's about the only thing you're in control of other than being who you are."

Who he is, is the UFC's biggest draw, a crossover star who has averaged around 1 million pay-per-view buys every time he's stepped inside the octagon.

For his last fight with Carwin, he was asked about doing UFC's "Primetime" series to help promote the event, but he declined, saying he didn't feel comfortable under the circumstances of his comeback. This time, he agreed, and so the private star is in the spotlight for weeks leading up to his title defense. Asked if he's watched the program, Lesnar, who does not watch much television aside from hunting shows, said no.

"I'll probably watch it afterward but I'm in bed by that time of night," he said. "I ain't staying up to watch my ugly mug on TV, that's for damn sure."

Come October 23, the UFC is banking on a huge number of fans to not only stay up to watch his "ugly mug," but to pay for a fleeting glimpse at the champ before he disappears for another few months.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the MMA Fighting Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your fighting news from MMA Fighting