Brock Lesnar says he felt robbed by diverticulitis ending UFC run: “I don’t know if I’d be a pro wrestler if I hadn’t gotten sick”

By Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief

Brock Lesnar (artist Grant Gould © MMATorch)

Brock Lesnar appeared on the “Stone Cold” Podcast on WWE Network on Monday night, and his UFC career was broached several times. Looking back on his UFC run, Lesnar believes that his battle with diverticulitis really cost him what could have been a much longer MMA career, and he still thinks now that he’d be fighting had it not been for that illness.

“It was really unfair for me. To this day, I don’t know if I’d be a pro wrestler if I hadn’t gotten sick,” Lesnar said. “I may not be here. I’d still be banging heads.”

Lesnar said the one fight in which he was truly 100% in the Octagon was his title win over Randy Couture, but from there things got progressively worse. It came to a head in the fall of 2009, when he collapsed in Canada and nearly died. Lesnar described the very serious nature of the situation, and why he thought his career was over right then and there for a brief time.

“I got halfway through a training camp and I knew something was wrong. There’s something physically wrong me so I need to figure it out. But stubborn me, I didn’t get a CT scan on my stomach, and I decided to pull the fight [with Shane Carwin], drive up to Canada and sit in my deer stand,” he said. “Yeah, I did [almost die]… My doctor came into my room when I got to the states and said, ‘listen, son, you’ve got diverticulitis. If your fever doesn’t go down – I’m giving you antibiotics right now, a lot of antibiotics – I’m gonna give you eight hours. I’m gonna try to save your fight career’ – he knew who I was, he knew my history – ‘I’m gonna try to save your fight career, but if I can’t and I’ve gotta save your life, I’m saving your life before I save your career, son.’

“He gave me eight hours; they’re wheeling me into the operating room, and my fever was still at 104.3 or something, and I remember them prepping me for surgery, and I remember waking up in my room. [I thought] ‘well, he save my life, not my career.’ I woke up and said ‘what happened, what’s going on?’ He said, ‘we were just about to cut you open, then you broke your fever.'”

Lesnar returned the next year and defeated Carwin in a come from behind effort at UFC 116, but he looked nowhere near the fighter he had been at his peak. That became even more clear as he took a quick turnaround and lost to Cain Velasquez in the fall, and another bout with diverticulitis kept him on the sidelines until a loss to Alistair Overeem ended his run in Dec. 2011.

The former UFC Heavyweight Champion seriously considered returning earlier this year before ultimately deciding to re-sign with the WWE, and though some saw it as a negotiating ploy and nothing more, Lesnar insists his interest in returning was genuine.

“It wasn’t a bluff,” Lesnar said. “I felt robbed by diverticulitis. I felt robbed by being sick. I was feeling good and it took me a couple years to start feeling good. I’m at home, I’m working out, my life is great, everything’s in tune, my contract’s coming to an end with WWE, ‘hey, it’s been a great time, but something’s missing.”

“I was up front and totally honest with the company and told them I’m really thinking of pursuing getting back in the Octagon. I started training camp. I wanted to test myself and see where I was – not [physically], but mentally; I wanted to see the mental challenges that it was going to take. If your head’s not in the game, the last place you want to get into is in the Octagon.”

Penick’s Analysis: Lesnar’s raw talent and clear star power made him the biggest thing the sport had seen at the time. It was an incredible run for someone with so little experience to be competing the way he was against champions and longtime vets in the sport. That it was cut short due to illness is absolutely a shame, because he could have continued to improve at a much greater rate where he not hampered by what became a life-threatening situation at one point. The Carwin win, after getting beat up and nearly finished in the first round, still stands out as a gutsy highlight for Lesnar, and his win over Frank Mir in the biggest selling UFC pay-per-view of all time 100 is an iconic moment; unfortunately, he fizzled out in a couple of fights in which his detractors could say he was exposed. Perhaps that’s the final truth, and perhaps he would have wound up getting taken out by those types of fighters anyway, but I think it’s likely the illness took away any real chance for him to reach his full potential as an MMA fighter.

[Brock Lesnar art by Grant Gould (c)]

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