Former champ returns after surgery
LAS VEGAS – As Brock Lesnar sat Tuesday on the base of the Octagon inside the UFC’s Ultimate Fighter Gym, a throng of cameras and microphones and recorders and eyeballs pointed at him, it was fairly clear he’s back.
“I don’t think (Overeem) really understands,” Lesnar told media members Tuesday. “The UFC is the best of the best. I think I’m one of the best heavyweight fighters out there. I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be sitting here if it wasn’t true.”
Lesnar (5-2, 4-2 UFC) is 14 months removed from losing the UFC heavyweight title to Cain Velasquez at UFC 121. But his quest to get another shot at the belt was derailed by a second bout with diverticulitis, a chronic stomach ailment that this time forced the former WWE star into surgery – where he had a portion of his large intestine removed.
At this point, Lesnar is just glad to be back fighting, period, let alone fighting for No. 1 contender status for the title now held by Junior dos Santos, who beat Velasquez last month.
“I feel the greatest I’ve felt in a long time, and I’ve actually just sat and pondered about how good I feel and how fortunate I am just to be back here,” Lesnar said. “May 27 of this year, I had 12 inches of my colon removed – and here I am in a pretty big fight. That’s my Christmas present, just to be healthy and to be back in the Octagon.”
Helping get Lesnar ready for this “pretty big fight” against Overeem, one of the world’s most renowned strikers and a kickboxing champion, is UFC heavyweight Pat Barry – himself one of MMA’s best kickboxers.
Barry said Lesnar getting over the hump, medically, has made all the difference in how he can approach his training camp.
“After the surgery and after the Cain fight, he’s a completely different character than he was the first time I met him and first time I trained with him – because all he has to do is train now,” Barry told HeavyMMA on Tuesday. “He doesn’t have the diverticulitis to worry about, he doesn’t have to worry about whether or not he’s going to have to cancel the fight or anything like that. So now he’s totally free – completely free to just go to practice and just train and get better for a fight. That’s it.”
Barry said the Lesnar of last year wouldn’t hold a candle to the current version in the standup game. Lesnar, a former national champion wrestler, will face perhaps his stiffest striking test yet against Overeem. But Barry believes he’ll be ready.
“In my eyes, (his standup game) has changed dramatically,” Barry said. “I know everybody says, ‘This is the best shape I’ve ever been in in my life,’ but he has literally become a different person now. We’ll see what happens fight night. But at practice, in the gym, his mentality, his ability, everything has changed. They’ve actually let me, with my striking knowledge and ability, really step up and start giving some input. He’s made a lot of dramatic changes and Friday night’s going to be a different fight.”
And Lesnar said Barry’s prowess in the standup game is precisely why he’s such a big part of his camp now.
“I’ve got the best heavyweights in my gym,” Lesnar said. “Cole Konrad, Jon Madsen. Pat Barry, as far as striking goes, when he first got to my gym, ran circles around me – and now we’re bangin’. It’s ‘look out’ time. Having a guy like Pat in my gym to stand in front of me and mimic Alistair – Junior’s got the belt, but it’s just one solid punch or one solid submission away from losing it. That’s this game.
I’m going to go out and try to win Friday and do the best job that I can do to put me in position to face Junior.”
Lesnar and Overeem fight Friday in the main event of UFC 141, which takes place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The pay-per-view starts at 10 p.m. Eastern and features a co-main event lightweight contenders fight between Donald Cerrone and Nate Diaz.