Thursday, July 1, 2010 | 11:55 p.m.
Following Thursday's UFC 116 pre-fight press conference at the MGM Grand, UFC President Dana White couldn't hold back laughter when asked if he thought Brock Lesnar has grown a soft side.
While it does seem as though the life-threatening stomach ailment Lesnar dealt with last year has humbled him in a way, his personality certainly has remained mostly intact.
"I guess he's different. He's Brock, though. Trust me, not much is going to change," White said. "All the fighters know, no matter who you are, it's mandatory if I need you to go to a Best Buy or travel somewhere. I don't send him anywhere.
"I keep him with as little human interaction as possible."
During much of the buildup for his heavyweight title fight against Shane Carwin (12-0) this weekend at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, Lesnar pretty much has been the same villain-type everyone remembers.
He's trashed former opponent Frank Mir and poked fun at Carwin's background as a Division-II wrestler.
His larger-than-life aura clearly was on display during open workouts earlier in the week when he accidentally demolished a standup poster of Carwin by simply placing his massive forearm on it.
When asked if he believed the crowd would treat him less like a villain, knowing what he's been through over the past year, Lesnar (4-1) shrugged in typical fashion.
"I don't walk these streets for respect," he answered. "I am who I am, and I don't have to answer to anybody but myself. That's been my motto for years. I do what I do, and if you don't like it, you know what you can do."
However, when the actual illness is brought up — the one that kept him in a hospital bed, unable to ingest any food for two weeks — that's when a side of Lesnar comes out no one has seen until now.
"It just hit me like a tornado," Lesnar said of his bout with diverticulitis. "I didn't really know what to think. It was one of those things where I was like, is this really happening to me? Is my life over?
"I don't really like thinking about it anymore."
What Lesnar does like to think about these days is defending his title and eventually leaving the sport as the "greatest heavyweight ever."
When it comes down to it, that's what Lesnar says weighed heaviest on his mind last year — the possibility he'd be forced out of MMA by something not in his control.
"I could have just hung it up and stayed at home and been a family man, but that's not how I want my career to end," Lesnar said. "If this thing is going to stop, I want it to be on my own terms."
As much as Lesnar looks the same, a year away from the octagon is rarely a good thing — especially when it includes losing more than 40 pounds.
Even the slightest hesitation or ring rust on Lesnar's part could turn into a huge disadvantage against a guy who's ended every one of his fights in the first round.
"For Brock, there are things with this layoff that I think will be bad for him," said Carwin's trainer Trevor Wittman. "Shane is a starter. He comes out and gets things done in the first round. When you have a long layoff, the first round is the hardest.
"Brock also had the illness. I'm happy he's better again, but I think that will be a factor. And, yes, we have a plan on showing that."
The best thing for Lesnar likely would be to get the fight to the ground early where he'll be more comfortable and avoid the knockout power of Carwin.
As much as Lesnar will look to get the fight to the ground, however, he might hesitate to go into the clinch with Carwin against the cage after seeing him knock out Mir in that position.
Carwin is one of the best fighters in the UFC at generating power in short distances, a quality that's possible because of his leg strength, according to Wittman.
"Brock makes Shane look small, but they're the same weight," Wittman said. "That's because Shane's weight is in his legs. That's where the power is coming from in those uppercuts — the explosion in his calves."
Last Time Out:
Lesnar: Second-round win by TKO over Frank Mir at UFC 100.
Carwin: First-round win by TKO over Frank Mir at UFC 111.
The Lines: Lesnar, minus-145; Carwin +135
Lesnar: On the comparisons being made between him and Carwin: "When I look at that guy, I don't know. That's you guys making these comparisons up. I just don't see them. He hasn't done the things I've done. He's trying to. I just don't see the comparison."
Carwin: On when he knew he could become a UFC champion: "After I started working with coach Wittman and he told me I could be a world champion. When a coach tells you that and you start seeing the results in the training room, that's when you start to believe the dream."
Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or firstname.lastname@example.org.