Brock Lesnar has stared down the proverbial barrel of the gun - looked into the eyes of 250 pound men seeking to do him harm. And he's flinched. Absolutely flinched. Against both Shane Carwin and Cain Velasquez, Lesnar's response to being hit by heavy punches was to flee for safety. To cover up. Even to cower.
While the "fight or flight" reflex is strong in most people, an evolutionary trick that extends lifespans and species, it's a trait that can't exist in a cage fighter. A fighter, if not fearless, has to be able to turn off the part of his brain desperately telling him to escape the pain and the danger. For Lesnar, it's been an impediment to his evolution and growth as a fighter.
But it was a question that went unaddressed in the pre-fight media conference call yesterday. Instead, Lesnar repeatedly discussed an issue he feels has been an even larger barrier to progress - his health issues. Lesnar has famously battle diverticulitis, eventually going under the knife in May to remove 12 inches of his colon. The former heavyweight champion believes the surgery will be instrumental to his return to the top.
"I've had plenty of time to train and being healthy and once again, I'm motivated," Lesnar said during the conference call. "I've been able to just work on a lot of different things. This is a sport that you have to evolve in and you have to get better if you are going to stay on top in this organization...we put lots of hours in the Octagon in training. So lots of sparring and lots of grappling and lots of Jiu-Jitsu sessions. It hasn't been lack of trying here. I am excited for it and I can't wait to get back into the Octagon."
On paper his bout next weekend against Dutch fighter Alistair Overeem is the classic battle between wrestler and striker. Overeem, a former kickboxing champion, has the power to end fights standing. Lesnar has the skillset to bring any man to the mat. But the former NCAA Wrestling Champion doesn't believe a fight can be placed in such a neat box. He hasn't been training the parts, standup or wrestling - his preparation is to become a better whole.
"The only thing I analyze is wins and losses and at the end of the day, I want to get better on my feet and I want to get better in general," Lesnar said. "So at the end of the day, that's really what I focus on is just getting better - to be a better fighter."
The winner of the fight will be next in line for heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos. Lesnar was scheduled to face the Brazilian star earlier this year, but health issues prevented the fight from transpiring. Now, a win puts him right back on track for that showdown, a matchup that dos Santos's title win over Cain Velasquez makes suddenly much more meaningful.
"Under all the circumstances I've gone through, this is an opportunity that not too many people get," Lesnar said. "So I'm excited about it, absolutely."