by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
He is a two time NCAA All-American wrestler who won the Division I wrestling championship in 2000. In professional wrestling, he was known throughout the industry as “The Next Big Thing.” But when Brock Lesnar steps into the Octagon for the first time ever at UFC 81 on Feb. 2 to face Frank Mir, he will be another heavyweight trying to make his mark in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Much has been made about Brock Lesnar’s signing with the UFC, mostly due to his huge popularity spawning from his professional wrestling career, but now the 30-year-old fighter is just looking for a home in the UFC and be the best he can be in mixed martial arts.
“I’m happy for the opportunity that the UFC is willing to accept Brock Lesnar and to support him and to carry this ball into winning a UFC heavyweight title,” said Lesnar in a recent appearance on MMAWeekly Radio.
He made his pro MMA debut at K-1’s Los Angeles show in 2007. He stopped Min Soo Kim in the first round to give him his first victory in his new chosen profession. Now he will step in against former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir, a legit heavyweight and legit threat to derail the speeding train that is Brock Lesnar.
“Frank has got a lot of credentials,” he stated. “When (UFC president) Dana (White) first mentioned Frank’s name, I didn’t even have to think about it too long. Yeah, I’ll take that challenge. I knew from the beginning that I’ve got to be tested. I’ve got to prove myself and there’s only one way to do that and its be challenged by good people.”
Working out of his adopted home state of Minnesota for the past 18 months, Lesnar has worked exclusively with the training camp at the Minnesota Martial Arts Academy, headed up by coach Greg Nelson and anchored by former UFC lightweight champion, Sean Sherk.
“Greg Nelson up at Minnesota Martial Arts Academy, when I first went up there I felt at home and we got along great and obviously he’s trained Sean Sherk from the beginning and me and Sean have a lot in common.”
His training camp has included a bevy of top fighters and wrestlers, including another University of Minnesota wrestling champion, Cole Konrad, as well as U of M coach Marty Morgan, and veteran MMA fighter Erik Paulson, who will corner Lesnar for this fight along with Morgan and Nelson.
One of Lesnar’s trainers and training partners, Sean Sherk, feels that he will do just fine in his Octagon debut and could be a real threat in the future.
“Brock’s a beast,” said Sherk. “He’s got some of the best training partners available and some of the best trainers out there. He’s doing everything he needs to do to win this fight; training hard, he’s training long. He’s got all the attributes to be a huge, huge threat in the heavyweight division.”
In his training camp, Lesnar has worked all facets of his game, including striking, which is one question mark that is still left unanswered.
“I knew from the beginning that I had to be well rounded in this sport and we haven’t overlooked anything,” Lesnar said. “I focused a lot on my striking and my ground game. I’m very confident in competing with anybody on the ground and on my feet.”
While the pressure may sit squarely on Lesnar’s shoulder, his opponent will try to dispel longtime problems he’s had with cardio and conditioning and Lesnar feels that is one part of his game that has always been one of his strongest assets.
“To compete at a Division I college you have to be in great shape and for guys who are going to go into a fight and question their conditioning, you’re really questioning your capabilities in the Octagon,” he commented. “I’ve been doing this my whole life, since I was a young kid. So I’m able to carry this kind of size and to have a gas tank and that’s huge.”
Lesnar states that as of about 10 days out from the fight he was weighing around 274 pounds, about nine pounds over the heavyweight limit of 265. But as large as the new heavyweight star may seem to some, he’s actually stated that keeping weight on is his real problem and while he stays healthy, he’s not depriving himself of a few luxuries.
“I try to eat as clean as I can,” said Lesnar. “But if I want a cheeseburger, I’m going to eat a cheeseburger.”
Of course the obvious question that arises when looking at the match-up between Lesnar and Mir is how will the big man handle Mir’s strongest attribute, his tremendous jiu-jitsu background?
“We’ve been able to watch every fight that Frank’s been in and so it’s all a matter of not putting my hand where it shouldn’t be and keeping my legs underneath me and not exposing myself too bad when I’m throwing punches on the ground,” Lesnar stated.
Ultimately, he is not looking past Mir in any way, shape or form, but his goal is to become the heavyweight champion. He knows his first task at hand faces him on Feb. 2.
“I think the UFC, not just the UFC, but the fans are looking for a heavyweight champion,” said Lesnar. “For me, Frank Mir is a road block that I have to go through to become that guy.”
“I’m coming into the Octagon Feb. 2 to make a statement.”