Photo by James Law for Heavy.com
LAS VEGAS -- Brock Lesnar, fun-loving guy. It's not a phrase you hear often.
Lesnar, the reigning UFC heavyweight champion, is typically known more for his surly disposition and general dislike for the entirety of the human race. It's the attitude that instantly made him not just a target for mixed martial arts fans looking for a villain -- it also made him the single biggest drawing card in the sport today.
But the Lesnar we met today at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas wasn't angry. He wasn't surly. He was jovial. After a brief workout period that revealed absolutely nothing about Lesnar's technical improvements, the massive champion strolled over to the media area. On his way, he stopped in front of a poster of opponent Shane Carwin. Placing his hands on top of the poster as if to lean on it, Lesnar quickly toppled the image of his foe to the floor, then cracked a grin.
"Sorry about that, guys. I just leaned on it," he says with a mischievous grin. "I'm sorry about that. I just leaned on that thing and it fell over. I don't know what happened there."
This is a very different version of Brock Lesnar. He has a renewed lease on life. He's smiling and joking with us, and it's uncomfortable. We're not used to happy Brock Lesnar. We're not entirely sure what to expect, but Lesnar puts us (partially) at ease.
"I'm just glad to be here. It feels good. It feels like an eternity since I was here. I've been through a lot this year, you know? I just feel fortunate," Lesnar says. "It was a lot of hard work, to come from November 6th and being in the hospital to being here and being healthy and ready to defend the title? It's pretty remarkable."
Lesnar's words aren't just lip service designed to sell a fight. It's evident in his mannerisms that he feels fortunate to be competing again, to have the chance to do the one thing he loves. His bout with diverticulitus nearly ended his career and forced him to wear a colostomy bag, and the heavyweight champion is ever aware that everything he'd ever worked for was very nearly lost.
"It hit me like a tornado, you know? It was one of those things where I didn't know what to think," he says. "In fact, I don't really even like thinking about it any more. It was one of those things where I didn't really understand what was happening to me. Is my life over? It was a very serious deal, but I'm just thankful to be here today. It's like the old saying about cats having nine lives. I think I'm down to five or six now."