Tuesday, June 22, 2010 | 3:43 p.m.
A near-death experience with a stomach ailment forced Brock Lesnar to re-evaluate everything he was putting into his mouth.
Apparently, it's had an effect on what he allows to come out of it as well.
The UFC heavyweight champion was in uncharacteristically high spirits Tuesday during a 45-minute conference call to promote his July 3 title fight against Shane Carwin.
After overcoming a bout with diverticulitis that put his life in jeopardy last year, Lesnar appears to, at least for now, be taking a softer approach to his athletic career.
"It's just a good day to be alive," said Lesnar, when asked about his lighthearted mood. "I laid in a hospital bed for over two weeks, putting no food in my body. The doctors didn't want my stomach to do any work so they fed me intravenously.
"To wake up every day and not be able to put food in your mouth, yeah, you take a different approach on life. I felt like I was on my death bed."
Lesnar (4-1) originally had been set to defend his title against Carwin last November, but was forced to postpone that fight when his illness peaked in October.
Originally diagnosed with mononucleosis, Lesnar finally learned the extent of his medical issues after he collapsed during a hunting trip in Canada and eventually was taken to an emergency room in Bismark, N.D.
From there, the 32-year-old faced the possibility of a surgery that would remove part of his colon and likely end his career. It wasn't until Jan. 5 that doctors informed him he had made a rare recovery on his own and cleared him to train again.
"As soon as I got the green light from the Mayo Clinic, I've been training," Lesnar said. "When I pulled out of the fight last October, I didn't know if I was going to fight again. From October to January, everything was up in the air.
"This is kind of my second coming, and it's brought a lot of life into me."
Lesnar went on to admit the recent experience has humbled him — something that was on display during Tuesday's call, specifically when Lesnar was asked to give his thoughts on Carwin as an opponent.
During interviews prior to the first time they were supposed to fight, Lesnar had downplayed Carwin's Division-II collegiate wrestling title and said he was unimpressed at Carwin's undefeated record because he hadn't fought a high-quality opponent.
Whether due to his illness or Carwin's impressive win over Frank Mir in March, Lesnar has a different opinion of his opponent now.
"Shane poses different threats that I haven't had, including his size and his wrestling" Lesnar said. "Shane is heavy-handed and he's a Division-II national champion wrestler. He's got 12 fights.
"Every fight is a different fight; it's whether or not you're prepared for them or not. I believe that I am."
Even at times when UFC public relations and reporters familiar with Lesnar's temper were probably holding their breath, the heavyweight gave nothing but calm answers throughout the call.
When asked how he would feel if he was denied the opportunity of ever fighting Fedor Emelianenko, 'who is considered the best, all-time heavyweight' as the reporter put it, Lesnar seemed amused.
"I hope he does retire, good for Fedor. He's the greatest champion of all time," Lesnar laughed. "The greatest champion ever, of all time — in his own little world. Good for him."
It remains to be seen if Lesnar softer approach to the fight game will become a permanent thing. A good test of it will come the week of the title fight, a time when he's known to be rather touchy.
Even if this is a new Lesnar, there's still some of the old villain in there.
Near the end of the call, one reporter — possibly emboldened by Lesnar's good mood — asked if his feelings toward interviews and the press had changed.
Lesnar took no time in responding, "No. I still dislike all of you."
Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or email@example.com.