Q&A with Brock Lesnar
With UFC 86 in the rearview mirror it’s time to look ahead to some of the summer’s other big fights. One of those will be a battle between UFC heavyweights Heath Herring and mixed martial arts newcomer and former professional wrestler Brock Lesnar Aug. 9 at UFC 87 in Minneapolis, Minn. Lesnar, who lives in Minneapolis-St. Paul, will be entering the Octagon for the second time in his career, following a first-round submission loss to former heavyweight champion Frank Mir at UFC 81. Lesnar's UFC 87 matchup with Herring was arranged after his original opponent, Mark Coleman, pulled out of the fight with a knee injury. Lesnar recently took the time to talk to me by phone about his career and his preparation for UFC 87.
MMA Stomping Grounds: Why did you decide to get into mixed martial arts?
Brock Lesnar: Oh man, um ... originally it was the decision to be a part of the NFL because contractually I couldn’t fight in MMA, so I just knew I was done being a pro wrestler for the time being, at least for the company I was working for. (Editor's note: Lesnar played for the Minnesota Vikings for a little over a month during the 2004 preseason, before being released by the team).
MMA Stomping Grounds: How was the transition to MMA?
Lesnar: I’ve enjoyed it. I’m able to train at home and be at home every night. It brings me back to the competitive side of who I am. It’s something I wish I would’ve done a long time ago, but hindsight is 20/20.
MMA Stomping Grounds: What was your biggest concern with joining the UFC?
Lesnar: I didn’t really have any concerns. My biggest concern was, financially, making sure that I wanted to do it.
MMA Stomping Grounds: What was it like making your debut in the UFC on the main stage against a fighter like Mir?
Lesnar: Well, it was an honor. I’m glad the company thinks highly enough of me to put me in a co-main event and it was an exciting first fight for me. It was only 90 seconds long [and] an outcome that I would like to reverse, but I enjoyed it. It takes awhile for people to find exactly who they are, and I think this is definitely me, for sure. We’re all put on this earth for some odd reason and some job title and I think this is what I should be doing.
MMA Stomping Grounds: What do you like the most about mixed martial arts?
Lesnar: This is who I am and it’s a chance for me to live out, competitively, who I am and I enjoy the sport. It’s a growing sport and it's become very big -- and it’s going to get bigger -- and I’m just glad to be a part of it. Life is all about timing, too. I’m glad the timing has worked out for me to be a part of this.
MMA Stomping Grounds: What part of the UFC’s growth excites you the most?
Lesnar: We just signed a merchandising deal with a company to make action figures of myself and other fighters, and [the UFC] is growing in different areas. It’s becoming a legitimate contender to pro wrestling, hockey, basketball, football ... it’s becoming one of those sports. Before long I imagine there will be trading cards and all kinds of merchandise that give fighters another avenue to make money, instead of just fighting.
MMA Stomping Grounds: How would you respond to fans of the sport and fighters lower on the totem pole who believe you got a big push because of your popularity in wrestling?
Lesnar: Tough [expletive deleted], buddy. Get in line. That’s just the way it is. This is a business and it’s a sport, it’s entertainment and it’s all three of those words wrapped into one. [UFC president] Dana White and [co-owners] the Fertitta brothers didn’t buy this company to say, ‘Hey let’s see if we can run this thing into the ground and not make a dime.’ They bought it to make millions and make it what it is, and that’s what they are doing. I’m just trying to have fun and get a little piece of the pie. I really enjoy it. I’m proud and honored to be a part of it. And it’s not like I didn’t pay any dues either. I wrestled amateur when I was 5 years old and put more miles in airplanes and working out. I’m 31 this year and I’ve paid dues. If [other fighters] want to be mad I think they should focus on how they can become a big contributor. They are mad because they aren’t making any money.
MMA Stomping Grounds: What was your reaction when Coleman had to pull out of UFC 87?
Lesnar: After looking at Mark, I respect Mark a lot but it worked out for the better. Mark, I believe, is over the hill and had been out of the league and regardless of the injured knee, I don’t think it would’ve made a difference.
MMA Stomping Grounds: What did you think when they proposed Herring instead?
Lesnar: Heath is a younger guy, he definitely has a lot of experience and he’s a tough SOB. He’s a brawler and brings to the plate a whole variety of things that we’re looking at as a fighter. He’s well rounded with hands, feet and it’s a challenge for me, and I accepted the challenge when Mark pulled out. I’m looking at this fight where I’ve got a lot to gain and he has a lot to lose.
My back is against the wall in this fight too, because I said from the beginning I wanted to fight credible opponents and that’s what Dana is handing me in Frank Mir and Heath Herring.
MMA Stomping Grounds: What do you think about another newcomer to mixed martial arts, Kimbo Slice?
Lesnar: I don’t have a comment on that. It’s not worth commenting on it.
MMA Stomping Grounds: What’s been the toughest part of your transition to mixed martial arts?
Lesnar: Well there’s one thing I’ve got that you can’t take away and that’s a huge wrestling background. Another thing too is I’ve been able to keep my mouth shut and my eyes and ears open, and my trainers will tell you that. I’m trying to learn and absorb as much of the fight game as I can to be a well-rounded fighter and prepared for anything. I’m just another one of the guys who has his sights on becoming the UFC heavyweight champion.
MMA Stomping Grounds: After seeing the success Cheick Kongo had in taking Herring to the ground, do you think your wrestling will give you an advantage?
Lesnar: I would imagine it would, I hope so. For me, I’ve got to be well prepared on my feet too. I might run into somebody I won’t be able to take down so I’ll have to stand and bang as well. Wrestling has taken kind of to the backburner as I try to brush up with my jiu-jitsu, hands and feet to become well rounded so I will see no surprises when I get into the Octagon.
MMA Stomping Grounds: What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about you?
Lesnar: I don’t know. I don’t really care.
MMA Stomping Grounds: What’s one thing about you that most people might not know that you think they should?
Lesnar: That I love my family very much.
MMA Stomping Grounds: Are you looking forward to fighting in Minnesota?
Lesnar: Oh, absolutely. Any time I don’t have to get on an airplane and to be in front of my hometown [fans] is great. The state of Minnesota has been great to me and now people that want to come and see this and witness a UFC event don’t have to get on a plane and spend a lot of money. It’s right in the backyard and it’s a good thing for the city and for the state.
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Photo courtesy of Zuffa, LLC.