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UFC 121:

Lesnar shows sunnier disposition as showdown with Velasquez nears

While still a private person at heart, heavyweight champ’s demeanor in public is slowly changing


Sam Morris

A champion again, Brock Lesnar carries his belt out of the octagon after his heavyweight title fight against Shane Carwin Saturday at UFC 116 on July 3, 2010. Lesnar won with a second-round submission.

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — There's the Brock Lesnar you see on television and through the words and opinions of the media, then there's the private Brock Lesnar, who, well, no one ever sees.

The truth is that it's unlikely the latter Lesnar will ever be known by the masses, and he likes it that way.

What is gradually evolving, though, is the Lesnar you do know. That version of the UFC heavyweight king was on full display at Wednesday's UFC 121 press conference in downtown Los Angeles.

Armed with a much-talked-about beard and a sunnier-than-normal disposition, Lesnar fielded a bevy of questions and, while offering some insightful answers, was able to successfully pepper in a few jokes.

"Yeah ... in public," UFC President Dana White said when asked of Lesnar's changed demeanor. "He's moody, man. He has his moments. The thing with him, too, is he's a very private person. It's all real. He's private, he doesn't like to do much, but, yeah, his media demeanor has completely changed since coming back.

"He truly is blessed to be back here fighting, and I think he feels that way."

Lesnar's brief UFC career has certainly had its peaks and valleys.

After claiming the UFC heavyweight belt in just his third fight with the organization, Lesnar was highly criticized for the mouthy showing after his first title defense against Frank Mir at UFC 100. A bout with mononucleosis kept Lesnar from defending the crown again for almost a year, and he was forced to dig deep from behind before submitting Shane Carwin at UFC 116 in his July comeback.

Next up is undefeated contender Cain Velasquez, who is regarded as one of the most well-conditioned athletes not only in the heavyweight division, but in all of mixed martial arts. They'll duel in Saturday's main event at the Honda Center in Anaheim.

A win for Lesnar, which would run his record in the UFC to 5-1, can only further cement him as arguably the organization's top star and pay-per-view draw.

On top of wins, what's helping to elevate that status is that Lesnar has clearly taken to the notion that he had to lift the image he put out in public.

He hinted that a lot of the change to his persona came following the medical struggles he dealt with before returning to the octagon this summer.

"To be healthy and able to compete twice in one year, from a year ago this week when I had to pull out of the Carwin fight ... yeah, I have a different outlook," he said. "This is a business for me, and I think we have a good business relationship. I don't make it any more complicated than it has to be. I just train for fight, and that's really how I like to do it. I just want to fight, and I guess that's been good."

As for the other Lesnar ...

"It's very basic for me," he explained. "When I go home, I don't buy into any of the BS. Like I said, it's pretty basic.: Train, sleep, family, fight. It's my life. I like it."

Nothing about fighting Velasquez will be basic, though.

Just a week after defeating Carwin, Lesnar began a 14-week training camp. The camp took on a different pace, as he brought in UFC light heavyweight Pat Barry as a training partner.

"We try to bring in people that are going to make you better," Lesnar said. "I don't just want a bunch of punching bags laying around the gym. Everyone we bring in, all of my partners are very good. Bringing a guy like Randy (Couture) in, a guy like Pat Barry, somebody that poses different looks, puts me out of my comfort zone every day, and that makes me better. If you stay in your stride and never trip and fall, you never get better as an athlete."

What could prove to be the x-factor in the fight is its five-round format, as Lesnar has never been deeper than the third in the early stages of his MMA career and is facing the best conditioned opponent he's seen to date.

"I think just persistence and closing gaps and just being aggressive, not letting him set the pace for this fight," Lesnar described as a key to victory. "Just go out and try to control the fight. That's probably the best game plan or explanation that I can give you."

Lesnar didn't divulge too many more details into how he will attack the 28-year-old contender, and the same went for the members of his training team, who were essentially given gag orders.

That's a bit of a look at private Lesnar, who he switched to as soon as the media responsibilities for the day were through. The champ put his head down, joined his team and quickly worked his way past yelling, autograph- and photo-seeking fans and out of the venue.

As for public Lesnar, he was all about keeping things light yet blunt heading into yet another defining moment in his fledgling career.

The topic du jour on Wednesday involving Lesnar was the thick, blonde beard. The whiskers were a means into a look at the persona that Lesnar is slowly letting the public get to know a little better.

"I'm keeping it," he said. "I'm going hunting. I'm leaving the next day (after the fight) and heading up to Canada.

"It's cold out. I'm going to get in the Viking ship and row my way up into the great white north."

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