Q&A with ex-wrestler and current UFC heavyweight Brock Lesnar
Brock Lesnar faces a rubber match of sorts when he battles Heath Herring at UFC 87 on Saturday in Minneapolis. At 1-1-0 in his fledgling mixed martial arts career, with nothing less than the UFC heavyweight championship as his goal, Lesnar wants to show more of the fighter who overwhelmed Min Soo Kim in 69 seconds in his debut bout in Los Angeles 14 months ago. And less of the guy who, despite a thrilling, dominating start, submitted in the first round to the vastly more experienced Frank Mir at UFC 81 in Las Vegas back in February.
While training for the fight that could largely crank or mute the buzz about him -- Is he "The Next Big Thing" of the UFC's heavyweight division or is he an interloper from the theatrical world of pro wrestling? -- Lesnar took a break to speak with SI.com.
SI: Has MMA been all that you expected?
Lesnar: It's been more than what I expected. Nothing about anything in athletics is easy, so I knew from the beginning that this wasn't going to be a walk in the park. I wanted to make sure I had the right people train me and help me evolve as a fighter. I said from the beginning I wanted to fight credible people and I didn't want to come into this looking like things were being handed to me. That's definitely not the case. I fought a former UFC champion the last fight, and this time I'm fighting a guy who's had more than 30 fights.
SI: Any chance you've bitten off more than you can chew?
Lesnar: That's the only way I know how to do it -- dive in head-first and let's see what happens. I've got to do the right things and capitalize business-wise, too. And every second that goes by, I'm not getting any younger. So I'm enjoying it. That's the most important thing to me, doing something I enjoy and being able to be home every night with my family. Everything else is secondary.
SI: Who benefits most on the credibility scale: You bringing your name and recognition to MMA, or MMA cleansing you of the WWE experience?
Lesnar: I think I bring some credibility to the plate because of my amateur status. And then I take some away because of my professional status as a wrestler. But it's one of those things where, until my first fight against Frank Mir, everybody saw there was some potential and credibility there. The entire fight against him, I had his back against the wall, and then he caught me in a kneebar. I'll have some proving to do in this fight, too. This is a huge step for me. If I beat Heath Herring, it just moves me up.
SI: What did you learn from the fight against Mir?
Lesnar: I was just way excited. I thought that I had to finish the fight rather quickly and I got sloppy. I've got 15 minutes to win this fight. The longer it goes, I think maybe, the better for me, because my conditioning is better than [Herring's].
SI: So you expect your opponents to try to dispatch you quickly?
Lesnar: Probably so. They saw the last fight. Luckily, I don't have much videotape out there on the market.
SI: How do you feel about the staying power of MMA? Are you playing "Beat The Clock," trying to capitalize before the public loses its appetite?
Lesnar: I think fighting is here to stay. Look at boxing, it's still here to stay and it's been around for many years. Everything's got its ups and downs, and right now we're at the peak. Everything sees its valleys, too. That's life, peaks and valleys. So right now, business is good. For me, obviously, I don't fight for peanuts and I don't think anybody wants to. It's a business, it's a way to make a living. This is prize fighting.
SI: What is your timeline or career horizon with this?
Lesnar: This is something I enjoy. It's not just a flash in the pan for me. I enjoy the camaraderie of the guys. This is where I grew up, training with the wrestling kids. It's kind of like that for me again. We get a bunch of guys together, beat on each other for a couple of hours, then go have lunch. Then I go home to the family.
SI: How grueling is this compared to amateur wrestling, pro wrestling or pro football [Lesnar went to training camp with the Minnesota Vikings in 2004 as a wannabe defensive lineman before succumbing to a lack of experience and a groin injury.]
Lesnar: It's very demanding on the body. Every day, you come in and ... some days you don't want to be in here. You have to push yourself through those days. But I would have to say that this is probably at the top end of things not to do to your body. [Laughs].
SI: Do you think about getting hurt in MMA, after everything else you've done and survived?
Lesnar: No. No, I don't. I've done a lot stupider things than this. And I didn't get paid for them. [Laughs]. I grew up on a farm in South Dakota and we did a lot of stupid things. Like, let's see how far we can jump this car. Things that I do not recommend anybody doing. But we found our ways to have fun, that's for sure.
SI: You're 31 years old now. Is the interest in MMA a generational thing, lost on fans of more traditional sports?
Lesnar: No, I think everybody understands it. Everybody understands fighting. One guy gets hit, that guy goes down. There's no scoring system. One guy hits, one guy falls. It's pretty elemental. I think that's why pro wrestling got so intriguing to people. It's simple: One guy is good, one guy is bad.
SI: How important is it that you and MMA don't head down the pro wrestling road and, instead, keep it real?
Lesnar: I think you don't cross that line. You have pro wrestling and you have fighting, and as soon as you try to mix the two, I think it would dissolve both of them. You don't want scripts -- you'd be stepping on both of them then. People watch both of them for entertainment, but once people feel they've been cheated, they might not come back. They know what they're getting with pro wrestling. You don't want to do that. And I like it real.
SI: Is the adrenaline rush from MMA better than what you felt in pro wrestling?
Lesnar: Oh yeah. Absolutely. For any athlete, when the whistle blows, it's competition. That's what an athlete lives for. For me, all I ever knew was competing. Then I was entertaining for four years, and I felt really empty inside.
SI: Really? That big a difference?
Lesnar: It just wasn't the same. I tried to make it feel that way. Some nights, I'm sure my opponents were thinking, 'He probably thinks this is real tonight. Back off!'
SI: Do folks from pro wrestling resent that you have moved on?
Lesnar: Nobody's really bothered by it. To be honest, people in pro wrestling have been supportive. Quite a few guys showed up to the last fight. It brings some credibility to them. I was a wrestler and now I'm a fighter.