Friday, July 1, 2016 | 2 a.m.
Brock Lesnar quite literally fought nostalgia over the last four years since resuming his professional wrestling career.
He’d often have urges to return to his days as UFC heavyweight champion, and would satiate them by hitting boxing mitts or practicing jiu-jitsu.
“I’ve never really left training MMA,” Lesnar said. “I have a true passion for the sport, I love the sport. I did it just to pass time and stay in shape.”
Those intermittent workouts account for the bulk of Lesnar’s preparation leading up to his actual octagon comeback. Many assumed Lesnar’s first fight since December 2011, which will come against Mark Hunt at UFC 200 next Saturday at T-Mobile Arena, was in the works for months before the UFC officially booked it.
On a conference call to promote the event Thursday, Lesnar said that wasn’t the case. He reached out to UFC President Dana White only shortly before the announcement in early June, leaving him “four or five weeks” to train as compared to a normal fight camp that lasts about twice that long.
“I wasn’t sure this thing was going to happen at UFC 200,” he said. “We had talked and thought maybe we could put something together by November, for New York, but I’ll fight whenever the money is right and we took it to the 11th hour. That’s where we’re at.”
The short notice could be interpreted as a significant disadvantage for Lesnar, especially given how active Hunt has stayed. Hunt has fought nine times since Lesnar’s retirement, going 5-3-1 with all the wins coming by knockout.
But Hunt didn’t have ample preparation time for this fight either. The UFC called him only after coming to terms with Lesnar.
Hunt had no hesitation, however, and quickly traveled from his home in Sydney to Las Vegas to get ready for the bout.
“I’m always down to take a fight, especially against someone like Brock,” Hunt said. “He’s such a big name in entertainment. To be put on the biggest card of the year and history I’d say is great news for Mark Hunt. I appreciate the call-up and I look forward to dancing with Brock.”
Lesnar shared much of Hunt’s positivity. Reiterating themes he harped on while announcing Hunt as his opponent on SportsCenter early last month, Lesnar credited his bout with diverticulitis for derailing his initial UFC run.
He felt like the two fights he lost back-to-back, to Cain Velasquez and Alistair Overeem, could have been different if he was at full health and couldn’t live without giving fighting another chance.
“I literally was sitting there one day on my property, and thought, ‘It’s time,’” Lesnar said. “I can’t sit and think about this, be caught up in this thought process, wanting, wishing and wondering if I should do it. I’m the person that pulls the trigger. I don’t want any regrets.”
UFC 200 was a natural choice with Lesnar’s best moment being when he avenged a loss to Frank Mir in the main event of UFC 100 seven years ago. As much as the actual victory, Lesnar is remembered for his capriciousness around the event.
He punched and broke a door on the “Countdown” show before the fight, and inflicted as much damage on UFC sponsor Bud Light in a rant after the win. It’s safe to say the biggest draw in the history of the promotion has softened going into his second appearance on a milestone card.
Lesnar was heard laughing in the background throughout Thursday’s call while light heavyweights Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier argued.
“I find it amusing,” Lesnar said. “It’s a good time, absolutely.”
Lesnar no longer has to long for fighting. He’s enjoying be a part of the UFC again — even if it did happen faster than he ever expected.