The Ultimate Fighting Championship is relieved to have one of the top fighters in history — U. Minnesota alumnus Brock Lesnar — back to fight interim heavyweight champion Shane Carwin.
The two will fight for the title of undisputed heavyweight champion Saturday in a match billed as “the most anticipated heavyweight bout in UFC history.”
“This is a fight that we’ve all been waiting for,” UFC spokeswoman Jen Wenk said, “because it will decide who is the greatest heavyweight in the UFC.”
Lesnar is just happy to be healthy again, overcoming a bout with diverticulitis — an intestinal inflammation — last winter that left his fighting career in jeopardy. The 6-foot-3-inch 265-pound fighter collapsed at one of his homes in Canada in October after battling what he thought was a case of mononucleosis. He cancelled a scheduled fight with Carwin and increasing stomach pains led to the diverticulitis diagnosis.
Lesnar announced his return in January after receiving the OK to begin training and wrestle from several doctors, including those at the Mayo Clinic.
“I think the setback for me actually has been a good thing because it allowed me to sit back and really focus on my diet, the way I trained,” Lesnar said in a recent teleconference interview.
While Lesnar was out, Carwin beat Frank Mir to become the UFC interim heavyweight champion.
Beginning his wrestling career as a junior college national champion, Lesnar transferred to Minnesota where he finished his career with two Big Ten championships and an NCAA Division-I heavyweight championship.
The Webster, S.D., native has since wrestled all over the world, most notably for the fictionalized World Wrestling Entertainment — where he was a three-time champion — and UFC.
Carwin doesn’t pose the type of grudge match that would have been present had his opponent been Frank Mir . Lesnar said there is no animosity, but rather a mutual respect between the two competitors.
“Brock is a big, talented, athletic heavyweight and those are rare to find,” Carwin said. “These are the [fights that] you remember.”
For his training, Lesnar has worked with former members of the Gophers wrestling family such as Cole Konrad and Marty Morgan . Morgan was an assistant coach for the Gophers who stepped away this season in order to help Lesnar train.
“I believe that’s what you have to do,” Lesnar said. “You have to surround yourself with people that are going to push you … You get what you put into it, and I’ve put my heart and soul and my whole life into this training camp.”
The changes he made weren’t only limited to his training staff and his diet. The condition did something to Brock that few wrestlers he’s come across have been able to do: lay him flat on his back.
“You definitely take a different approach on life,” Lesnar said. “You realize that there’s nothing more important in life than your family, and you really find out who your friends are.
“I’m excited. The fight is almost here, and it’s just a good day to be alive.”