“Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. ... We can make him better than he was before. Better, stronger, faster.” -- Theme from the Six Million Dollar Man
UFC’s version of the Six Million Dollar Man, Brock Lesnar, returns to the Octagon after a year-long hiatus this Saturday night on pay per view, and according to Lesnar, he’s better than ever.
“This is kinda my second coming. It has brought a lot of life into me and into my camp,” Lesnar told reporters in a conference call last week. “I feel like I’m a cat with 9 lives and I’ve got 8 of them left.”
The long-awaited match-up between UFC heavyweight champion Lesnar and interim champion Shane Carwin had to be delayed while Lesnar battled a near-fatal case of diverticulitis
“This illness, it kills a lot of people. At the time, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to fight again,” Lesnar said. “When I decided I could continued to fight, I said you know what, I gotta make some changes, I wanna be a better fighter, that was the main reason I had to make the changes.”
“I’ve brought in a new strength coach and a new boxing coach. I took a new approach on it, as far as training. It has been very refreshing. It has been a great thing.”
When these two behemoths collide on Saturday night, it will be one of the “biggest” battles in UFC, with both fighters tipping the scale at the maximum 265 pounds allowed in the heavyweight division.
“When two great big heavyweights that are athletic get in there, these are the great fights, these are the ones you remember,” Lesnar said.
Lesnar is used to grappling with guys his own size though. His camp in Alexandria consists of fighters like former NCAA champion and fellow Golden Gopher Cole Konrad and two-time Division II All-American Chris Tuchscherer, who wrestled at Minnesota State University, Moorhead. Former UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture even stopped by recently to help prepare Lesnar for this fight.
“My camp is full of big guys. I’ve been surrounded by greatness. I believe, that is what you have to do. You have to be surrounded by people who will push you,” Lesnar said.
As far as ring rust, Lesnar said he doesn’t think it will be a factor. “I’ve had about 40 tune up fights in the last eight weeks (in camp),” jokes Lesnar.
The second biggest question for Lesnar this weekend will be his chin, as Carwin will be the first guy he’s ever faced with true knockout power.
Carwin has knocked out three of his last four opponents in the UFC cage and five of his 12 wins have ended by KO.
The 35-year-old Carwin also has the potential to match Lesnar’s wrestling ability. He is a former Division II wrestling champion at Western State College in Colorado, where he also played linebacker for four years.
“This is definitely the biggest fight of my career. I approach every fight the same way. I am trying to not approach it any differently,” Carwin told reporters.
As far as his game plan for the fight, Carwin has been telling people all week he’s looking to knock Lesnar out. “I want to get in there and I want to fight, I don’t want to eek out any decisions,” Carwin said.
Carwin also trains with a premiere set of fighters at Trevor Wittman’s branch of the Jackson Submission Fighting schools. He trains with UFC vets like Nate Marquardt, Keith Jardine and former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans.
“I have a lot of areas I feel like I’ve just scratched the surface I think I can be a better fighter,” Carwin said.
As far as the “new” more friendly Lesnar that has been seen the last few weeks, “I’m still the ornery SOB. I’ve always been. Nothing's changed for me,” Lesnar said with a laugh. “There is no animosity between me and Shane. He’s just an opponent and obstacle I have to overcome.”
Lesnar also told reporters that despite fans' criticism of his time in pro wrestling, it helped prepare him for the pressure of being in the Octagon.
“If it wasn’t for the WWE and the visibility I got from them, they gave me a lot of visibility and that is what I bring to the UFC. Without the WWE, I wouldn’t be as prepared as I am not as far as dealing with the press and dealing with the popularity.”
One other difference between the two fighters is the discrepancy in what they will be paid for the fight on Saturday night. The $4 million man might be a little more realistic of a name for Lesnar, because that is the estimated amount Lesnar took home for his fight last year against Frank Mir and what he could take home again after Saturday night. On paper, he’s scheduled to be paid $400,000, but he’ll also get an undisclosed cut of every PPV he fights on. Carwin, on the other hand, will make just $40,000 for the fight and another $40,000 if he wins.
“I wont lie and say I (don’t) wish I was getting a piece of this PPV. Of course I want that, so does every other fighter on the card that is not,” Carwin wrote on his website last month. “I love to fight but I would love to fight for millions of dollars. ... But, I am not fighting for the money. If I was, I would have checked out of this sport LONG ago.”
Just a reminder, I'll be live blogging UFC 116 tomorrow night starting about 8 p.m. Central time, right here at Startribune.com. You can check back here on my blog or navigate to the front page and follow the link there. We'll also have Twitter updates throughout the night, which you can follow @StribMMA