UFC Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar put on the gutsiest performance of his career to date last Saturday night at UFC 116 against tough heavyweight bruiser Shane Carwin. Things looked bad for Lesnar early as Carwin knocked him to the ground with an uppercut in the first round and followed that up with brutal ground and pound for the remainder of the fight’s first stanza. Lesnar did just enough to prevent the fight from being stopped and to somehow survive the first round but no one in his young career had ever come close to dealing as much damage to the massive man as Carwin did in that first round. Lesnar would head into the second round bruised and bloodied but, aided by Carwin’s inability to sustain his assault, stole the momentum of the fight by dragging Carwin to the ground, quickly passing into full mount and then locking up a fight-ending kata gatame, or arm triangle, choke. Lesnar spoke about his impressive come-from-behind win during the UFC 116 post-fight press conference and also discussed what the win means to him after making a previous comeback from a life-threatening bout with diverticulitis.
“Honest to God, from what I’ve been through since Nov. 6 of 2009 up until this point, it feels like it’s been 10 years,” Lesnar said of returning after the year long, disease-induced layoff. “It’s been a gruelling, gruelling road. It really is truly a miracle. To come back from all that, and to be here and to win, words just cannot describe it. I really feel like I’m in a dream.”
Normally brash and disrespectful to his opponents, Lesnar showed much more tact in the lead up to his fight with Carwin and also after he won. Speaking to the press, Lesnar displayed that newfound respect as he described how he made it out of the first round.
“[Carwin] hit me pretty good, and I didn’t know where (I was) for a second,” said Lesnar. “I ended up the ground, and I just had to go into survival mode and try to stay busy. I really have to thank the referee for letting that thing go on. I wasn’t hurt, I though if I could just keep moving–I could feel Shane’s punches slowly becoming less and less and I thought, ‘Well, if I get out of here then I’m just gonna exert a bunch of energy.’ I realized there was short time left and I just tried to stay busy. He’s a beast. He definitely won the first round.”
Lesnar went on to explain how it was that he did not allow himself to be mentally defeated by the adversity he faced in the first round and the damage that he absorbed at the end of Carwin’s fists.
“Well, I’ve been in them situations before,” he said. “I think some of my pro-wrestling days prepares me for the ups and downs and kind of things–you know, I just don’t get too emotionally attached to a certain round. We train for that in the gym. There are certain things that are gonna happen, you’ve got no control over it. It’s whether or not you can get out of there and do the right things to move on. I knew that I lost the first round but there were still four rounds left and I though, ‘Well, we’re in a fight for sure now.’ I thought, ‘Here we go, I’m gonna have to win this round for sure.'”
Coming back from adversity has been a recurring theme in Lesnar’s life as of late and he believes that rebounding from his deadly-serious case of diverticulitis may have aided him in rebounding from the tough first round against Carwin.
“It’s been a roller-coaster ride all over the place,” Lesnar said. “It did cross my mind when I was underneath there that I’ve been through a lot. To weather that first round, I thought to myself, ‘This isn’t how it’s going to end. I’ve got to keep moving down here.’ He was strong on top. He outboxed me. He got me, and I’ll be the first one to tell everybody that, and that’s just the way it is. It’s been a crazy year. I’ve been through a lot, and I wasn’t going home without [the belt], that’s for sure.”
Lesnar also repeatedly thanked his coaches for remaining loyal to him throughout his comeback and credited his Brazilian Jiu-jitsu coach Rodrigo “Comprido” Medeiros for giving him the knowledge to sink the fight-ending submission.
“We kind of suspected that [Carwin] would be prepared for my ground and pound, so ‘Comprido’ pointed this submission out,” said Lesnar. “He said, ‘Listen, this is something that’s very feasible for you to do. It’s a wrestling – basically, it’s a headlock.’ Ironically, it happened on the other side. It actually all went totally backwards into it. It was just one of those things where I had to jump to the other side, and then I was where I needed to be. It just comes in training – part of second-nature. You’ve got to react, I guess.”
Lesnar, a former NCAA Division 1 wrestling champion, knows that even though he has so far been able to keep his belt that he needs to consistently improve in order to remain at the top of the UFC’s heavyweight division.
“Each win, you’ve just got to put it behind you and move forward,” he said. “We’ll train and keep doing the right things. I’m a wrestler. I’m a wrestler, and I’m trying to evolve. Is it pretty remarkable that I’ve only got six fights, and I’m the UFC heavyweight champion? Absolutely, it is. But I’ve got a lot of room to grow. I’ll be the first one to tell you.”
The newly humbled Lesnar showed that, in addition to possessing a special and remarkable kind of athleticism, he also owns some serious heart and resiliency. Lesnar likely won over many fans who had previously reviled him with his exciting comeback win and post-fight respectfulness. With Cain Velasquez waiting in the wings to challenge Lesnar next and with the winner of the Roy Nelson-Junior Dos Santos bout likely challenging for the title after Velasquez, the undisputed champion will have plenty more opportunities to display his heart and tenacity against tough competitors.