Heavyweight monster mash
UFC 116 presser: Lesnar, Carwin battle for UFC heavyweight championship
Story and photos by Chris Cozzone
Fans and media expecting drama and WWE-style vulgarity from Brock Lesnar went away from today’s press conference disappointed.
None of the 250 fans allowed in to the presser, held at MGM's Hollywood Theater in Las Vegas, were flipped off. There was no foaming at the mouth and no one was insulted, not Bud Light – not even Lesnar’s opponent, Shane Carwin.
Instead, the UFC’s heavyweight champion smiled, joked and – yes – gave thanks that he was alive.
“Honestly, I’m just blessed to be here,” said Lesnar, who nearly died from diverticulitis six months ago. “Last November, I was laying in a hospital, unable to eat for two weeks. I wasn’t sure I was going to fight again . . . I’m just grateful to be here.
“Guess I’m just a big teddy bear now. Six months ago, I was on my deathbed. Now, here I am. It’s a damn miracle.”
Though out of the Octagon for a year now, Lesnar, 4-1, will not just fight Saturday night in the headline bout of UFC 116, but fight against a man no one has been able to defeat.
UFC Interim heavyweight champ Shane Carwin, 12-0 with 12 first round kayos, has skyrocketed his way to a rightful title shot by destroying guys like Gabriel Gonzaga and Frank Mir.
“This is what I love to do,” Carwin said today. “To be able to compete against Brock Lesnar – he’s the champ – is a dream.
“There’s no added pressure for me. Every fight I take is tough. The UFC is full of top heavyweights. I don’t care who you’re fighting, it’s gonna be tough.”
The fight – called “the biggest heavyweight fight in UFC history” by UFC President Dana White – is nearly a pick’em on the sportsbooks, with Lensar a slight favorite.
“Who gives a shit?” Lesnar snapped, albeit good-naturedly, when asked about the odds.
Carwin was in agreement.
“Odds don’t matter,” he said. “As for being the underdog, it’s no surprise. I’ve been an underdog since I went with the UFC.”
“I wouldn’t want to be an oddsmaker in this sport,” Lesnar added. “Anything can happen in there.”
As for Carwin’s kayo power?
“No, I’m not really worried,” Lesnar said. “I don’t fear much of anything, really. Shane’s a standup guy. He’s a tough heavyweight – there are no slouches in the heavyweight division. There’s a lot of studs out there.”
Carwin wouldn’t predict an early night but did express his wish that it would end with a distance win for him.
“Frankly, I’ll be happy if it goes all the rounds,” he said. “Then, I can stop answering all these first round questions.”
“The winner of this fight will definitely determine the No. 1 heavyweight in the world,” Dana White concluded. “No matter what happened last weekend.”
Referring, of course, to last weekend’s huge upset loss for Fedor Emelianenko, long thought to be MMA’s top heavyweight, who tapped out to Fabricio Werdum on a Strikeforce card, White confirmed that he no longer had an interest in the Russian superstar.
“These guys consistently fight the best guys in the world, three times a year,” White said about UFC champions. “I don’t care how overhyped you are. You want to prove you’re the best, fight the best.”
. . . .
In Saturday night’s co-main event, Yoshihiro Akiyama (13-1) will take on Chris Leben (20-6) in a three-round middleweight bout.
Leben, coming off a win on June 20, took the fight with less than two weeks to prepare, replacing former Pride champ Wanderlei Silva, who pulled out June 21 with training injuries.
“I made it out the last time with a couple bumps and bruises, but no injuries,” said Leben. “So, I look at that fight as a hard sparring day – I truly feel better than I ever have my entire life.”
Though disappointed that Silva pulled out, Akiyama accepted the replacement bout, calling Leben “a tough fighter with a lot of heart, a good left hook – a well-rounded fighter.”
“I didn’t have time to get in trouble,” said Leben, who received the call two days after his last bout. “I’m just thankful for the opportunity.
“My game plan for Akiyama? The same as it is for all my opponents: punch him in the face.”