Reclusive Lesnar embraces Vegas life – for now
The famously reclusive former heavyweight champion rarely ventures far from his Alexandria, Minn. home, which makes Lesnar’s decision to spend the next six weeks here in Las Vegas all the more puzzling. But Lesnar says the timing was perfect for him to escape from the frigid conditions in Alexandria.
“It’s thirty below zero in Alexandria right now. I had enough of the ice fishing and trouncing around in the snow,” Lesnar said with a laugh. “Dana did all the right things for us to be here. Is Las Vegas a place I’d want to be? No. There are other warm places I can think of. But it’s not painful. Talk to me in five weeks and we’ll see. But right now, I’d have to say that it’s pretty accommodating.”
This isn’t the first time Lesnar has been asked to coach the reality show, and his first response to Dana White’s latest inquiry was the same as it usually is.
“I said no, just like I always do,” Lesnar said.
White continued pursuing Lesnar and ultimately sealed the deal with his biggest drawing card. Lesnar – who never travels without his family and a cadre of legal experts and managers – rented a house on the outskirts of town, where he’ll reside for the next six weeks while making the daily drive to the Ultimate Fighter gym in a new Dodge truck. He’ll serve as the figurehead coach for a team of young fighters who descended on Vegas last week in the hopes of capitalizing on the promise that the reality show provides.
Contrary to popular belief, Lesnar is excited about coaching on the show.
“I am excited to be a coach. Yesterday was pretty cool being here and getting to pick our teams. It’s kind of like being back in the wrestling room again,” Lesnar said. “These kids are young and eager, and their eyes are just wide open. They’re just excited to be here.”
Lesnar has fewer professional fights than many of the fighters on his team, but still scoffs at critics who say he isn’t experienced enough to coach on the show.
“I was the UFC heavyweight champion. What other qualifications do you need? You guys can sit there and discredit me, but in my mind, I’ve got just as many fights as Junior,” Lesnar said. “I’ve got a great coaching staff, guys that have been coaching top fighters and wrestlers. I’ve got faith in my people. These guys made me a champion, so why can’t we make this eager young kids into champions? I think we can.”
Lesnar’s team in Vegas will consist largely of the same coaches that prepare him for his UFC bouts. Marty Morgan, Erik Paulson and Rodrigo “Comprido” Medeiros make up the core team, while boxing coach Peter Welch and Greg Nelson could eventually return to help Team Lesnar. Lesnar says he’ll offer counsel to those who ask, but plans on sitting back and allowing his coaching staff to guide the training.
“I have the staff to be able to teach them. I’m not going to be able to get in there and pound away with these guys, but I’m not sure if any other coaches have done that before anyway,” Lesnar said. “These guys, I would say, don’t have a quarter of the background that myself or my coaching staff has. So if we can’t teach them, then something is wrong.”
The mammoth heavyweight seems tailor-made for the drama often provided by Spike TV’s reality show, and network executives are thrilled with the prospects of seeing Lesnar on their airwaves every week. Lesnar says he’s not in Vegas to play a character or be something he’s not, but he still understands the need to sell the eventual fight with Dos Santos.
“This is a business at the end of the day. I’m sure you guys are getting paid to be here, and if you weren’t, you wouldn’t be here,” Lesnar said. “I definitely understand the business. At the end of the day, with me and my ugly face on Spike TV and people getting to see Junior Dos Santos, we’re probably going to have a good pay per view buy.”
Lesnar says he has zero desire to take part in the kind of grudges that typically play out between Ultimate Fighter coaches, and he doesn’t think you’ll see much animosity develop between he and Dos Santos.
“I’m here to train and I’m here to make these guys better. Junior Dos Santos is a roadblock on the way to me getting my title back, and that’s it,” Lesnar said. “I have no beef with Junior. He’s a nice kid. He’s just in my way, and I’m gonna do what I can to get him out of the way.”
“I love this sport. I would not be here if I didn’t enjoy this. I could definitely do something else, but this is who I am and this is who I want to be.”