Heading into UFC 121, where he’ll face top contender Cain Velasquez (8-0) on Oct. 23 in Anaheim, Calif., Lesnar certainly seems more patient and willing to work with the media to hype an event. Perhaps more importantly, Lesnar feels like he has yet to reach his peak in mixed martial arts.
“I’ve gotten better and better … [and] I really don’t think that I’m still the best I can be,” Lesnar said today during a UFC 121 media call.
That’s a scary prospect for the rest of the UFC’s heavyweight division, considering that Lesnar has already defeated former champions Randy Couture and Mir and former interim titleholder Shane Carwin in his brief MMA career.
Of course, Carwin appeared to have Lesnar right where he wanted him at UFC 116, dropping Brock with an early flurry and battering him with several unanswered blows on the ground. But for the first time in his title reign, Lesnar proved he can take a shot and overcome adversity, bouncing back in the second round to submit Carwin with an arm triangle choke.
“I think it’s just a confidence thing,” Lesnar said of what he learned from that fight. “Up until the Carwin fight, there was always a question mark in my mind.”
The bout with Carwin was also Lesnar’s first since overcoming a stomach ailment that threatened to end his career. Since then, Lesnar has trimmed down and cleaned up his diet, allowing him to put in even more time in the gym. Lesnar said he weighed in at the 265-pound heavyweight limit this morning after a workout.
“Previous fights, I came in 15, 20 pounds heavier and having to make the cut … it’s just not healthy,” Lesnar said.
In Velasquez, Lesnar faces a fighter that many believe has the best cardio in the heavyweight division. Although he has trimmed down, Lesnar has gone a full three rounds before — against Heath Herring in just his second UFC fight — and isn’t putting more emphasis than usual on going the full five rounds if necessary.
“I didn’t train for Shane Carwin for 7 minutes; I trained for a 25 minute fight,” Lesnar said. “I’m prepared for 25 minutes of battle … If there’s one thing I’m in control of on Oct. 23, it’s my conditioning.”
Asked whether he planned on keeping the fight standing or taking the fight to the ground, Lesnar sounded content working in either area. Lesnar’s wrestling is his bread and butter, but he’s constantly working to improve in every other facet.
“You’ve got to force yourself into situations that you’re not going to be comfortable with, and that’s how you get better,” he said.
Lesnar added, “I’ll take the fight wherever I need to take it to win.”
That includes working with boxing coach Peter Welch and bringing in fellow UFC heavyweight and renowned striker Pat Barry to help prepare for Velasquez.
“[Pat Barry’s] been a great addition to the camp, great guy, what more can I say,” Lesnar said.
Being arguably the biggest pay-per-view attraction in the sport, as well as the heavyweight champion, brings extra responsibility and pressure. But Lesnar now appears more comfortable in that role despite his private nature.
“I just feel blessed and honored to be the champion,” Lesnar said. He added, “I don’t have any added pressure on myself. I’m doing what I love to do.”