Your U.F.C. Questions Answered
By STEPHEN J. DUBNER
Last Friday, we solicited your questions for U.F.C. fighter Brock Lesnar.
The next day he won his fight against Keith Herring — and mocked him when he was down. According to Sports Illustrated’s Ben Fowlkes, a “pro wrestling-style heel” like Lesnar “is exactly what the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s heavyweight division needs right now. … Thanks to Lesnar, watching the U.F.C.’s heavyweights is suddenly fun again.”
In his answers below, Lesnar reveals what he thinks of most U.F.C. fighters:
Many of them are well-educated, well-spoken, respectful guys that are looking to make a decent living.
Also, why a “no-rules” U.F.C. wouldn’t provide the proper incentives:
The fighters need to live to fight another day; otherwise, you wouldn’t see the top guys in the world compete with each other. The risk would far outweigh the reward.
Before he answers reader questions, Lesnar has a question for all of you:
Who would you like to see me fight next?
Thanks to Lesnar for his answers and all of you for the good questions. Feel free to answer Lesnar’s question, or leave a comment, below.
Q: What kind of non-critical pain actually bothers you? Papercuts? Headaches? Biting the inside of your cheek?
A: I had a root canal a couple of months ago that was pretty annoying!
Q: I know this is a stupid question, but how does it feel to have an action figure based on yourself?
A: It’s cool. It’s always interesting to see how it will turn out and whether it actually looks like me. I don’t collect toys or novelties though, so I don’t have any around the house.
Q: Have you ever read Freakonomics?
A: No. I don’t have the Internet, so I’ve never read the blog.
Q: I just watched you fight Heath. It seemed that you had many opportunities to go for the rear naked choke and other moves. Does the training fade away in the middle of a fight?
A: No. We developed a game plan. The plan was to control Heath, not give up position, dominate, and win. I stuck to the game plan. I won. It’s that simple.
Q: What is the prevalence of steroids in M.M.A. and the U.F.C. in particular?
A: Outside of what you can already find out on your own, I really don’t know. I mean, the shows are tested and the results are made public. A vast majority of the time the guys are clean, but occasionally they’re not. I can tell you that the testing is real and, at least in the U.F.C., the fighters can be tested at any time.
Q: Are there any legal M.M.A. techniques or moves that fighters won’t use because they are considered unfair?
A: No. If it’s legal, it’s fair!
Q: Aren’t you worried about getting an infectious disease when you get blood on you? Would you support a rule that would stop a fight after first blood?
A: No, as long as there is appropriate medical testing before the fight, I am not concerned. I would not support a rule that a fight should be stopped at first blood, because I know how easy it is for somebody to bleed before the fight reaches a conclusion.
That said, fighters need to make sure that they are only fighting against and training with people who can provide current medicals, or they put themselves at risk.
Q: Watching the Ultimate Fighter series definitely gives U.F.C fans an inside view of how childish many of the young fighters are. I call them punks. In your experience with the U.F.C., what percentage of the fighters still have this “punk” mentality?
A: There are always a couple of rotten apples in the bunch. Almost all of the fighters I have had contact with who reach the U.F.C. level really seem to have their acts together; many of them are well-educated, well-spoken, respectful guys that are looking to make a decent living.
Q: Brock, do you believe that old maxim that “women weaken legs?” And what is the oddest thing you’ve ever done to train for a fight?
A: No. Women don’t weaken legs. That’s just a myth.
I don’t know if I’ve ever really done anything “odd” in preparing for a fight. I pretty much stick to the basics and train smart. Occasionally, when we’re running stairs, I’ll do a set carrying one of my coaches on my back, but that’s about as odd as it gets around here.
Q: Inside the ring, are you ever bothered with doubts about possibly losing the match or personal injury? Likewise, do you ever worry about permanently damaging an opponent?
A: The second you have doubts about losing or getting hurt, one of the two is bound to happen. As for permanently damaging an opponent: it’s not something I worry about because my opponent and I accept that risk long before we ever step into the octagon.
Q: The W.W.E. is well known to be rife with backstage politics; does the unscripted nature of the U.F.C. eliminate that aspect, or does it still exist?
A: Where there’s money, there’s politics! I do my best to stay out of it all.
Q: If the U.F.C. becomes too structured, do you think that perhaps a new “There are no rules!” league will start up to return to the basics?
A: No. It isn’t necessary. The rules that exist are there for a reason. The fighters need to live to fight another day; otherwise, you wouldn’t see the top guys in the world compete with each other. The risk would far outweigh the reward.
Q: Through your sport we can vicariously participate in physical risk. Would your sport be popular in high-risk, war-torn countries.
A: That’s a tough question, but I think M.M.A are popular everywhere. A lot of emotions are released when you watch M.M.A. and I think people feel refreshed after watching a show. It draws something out of people.
Q: If someone fights dirty, are they likely to quickly be branded as a dirty fighter and have people fight back dirty?
A: There is really no such thing as fighting dirty. People are going to do what it takes to win. If they break the rules, they will be penalized; otherwise, everything is fair game.
Q: Why do U.F.C. fighters seem to have better sportsmanship (i.e., hugging each other after a fight) while other televised fighters (W.W.E.) have little or no sportsmanship and turn the fight into a soap opera?
A: Because U.F.C. fighters are really fighting and professional wrestlers are entertaining. After you fight somebody, in most cases there is a certain mutual respect.
Q: Gov. Jesse Ventura recently stated during an interview on The Howard Stern Show that he felt M.M.A. fighters were “working stiff,” or that the match outcomes are already decided but there is no “script” to be followed by the athletes. As a former professional wrestler, do you believe his comments have any merit whatsoever, or do they stem from an unfamiliarity with M.M.A.?
A: I think Jesse was unfamiliar with the sport when he made those comments and probably has a different view after sitting ring-side at U.F.C. 87 last Saturday. It’s one thing to see it on the TV, but it’s a completely different experience when you are there live.
Q: Who would you consider fighting even if there was no money on the line?
A: Would I fight somebody if there was no money on the line? Absolutely not.
Q: What advice might you give a young man, perhaps your son if you’re a family man, who is thinking of entering the sport?
A: Get your education first!
Q: What goes through a professional M.M.A. fighter’s mind when he loses a fight, particularly after he takes a brutal beating?
A: Losing sucks. I hate to lose. You put in months of hard work training specifically to win a fight and then you fail. But everybody loses in this sport. It’s how you pick yourself up after the loss that makes the difference.
Q: Who are your sporting idols?
A: As an amateur wrestler, I was always a fan of John Smith and Kenny Monday.
This might surprise people, but growing up, I also looked up to Michael Jordan. Not that I wanted to be the best basketball player in the world, but I think everyone my age wanted to “be like Mike” at one point or another — to be the best at whatever they choose to.
Q: Do you have a violent temper, and did you experience violence at a young age (either dishing it out or taking it)?
A: I think fighting is a basic instinct. You have to fight just to survive. Getting in the octagon gives you a chance to find out what you’re made of. I’m competitive and I like to test myself. I didn’t experience violence in my childhood and don’t have a violent temper.
In fact, I think guys that have violent tempers are actually at a disadvantage in a fight, because they lose their wits. You can’t go out and go crazy.
Q: What do you plan to do after your fighting career?
A: Good Question. I take it one day at a time. I couldn’t tell you what I’m going to do tomorrow! One thing is for sure: after my fighting career is over, I’ll definitely be spending plenty of time with my family.
Q: How significant is your wrestling background in your success?
A: It’s a huge factor. There is no substitute for twenty years of wrestling. It’s the foundation. You can’t teach wrestling overnight.
Q: What would you do if your were president?
A: Where do I start?
Q: Do you consider ultimate fighting significantly more or less dangerous than W.W.E. wrestling?
A: They are equally dangerous. You are putting yourself at risk every time you step into the octagon or a pro wrestling ring. With fighting — beyond the obvious risks associated with an actual fight — no matter how careful you are, there is a possibility of injury every time you train. One advantage with fighting is that you can take some time off to let injuries heal up and, generally, you’re not traveling excessively. In pro wrestling, being on the road and taking bumps in the ring almost every night takes a real toll on the body.
Q: What type of injury are U.F.C. fighters most concerned about? Same question for W.W.E. wrestlers.
A: I think all professional athletes are most concerned about suffering a career-ending injury regardless of the specific type. Otherwise, it really depends.
For example, when you’re training for a fight there are a number of specific concerns: you have to protect your hands from injury and you want to avoid any kinds of cuts on the face, etc.
Q: Athletes across all sports often say winning is mental as well as physical. How do you mentally prepare yourself for a new opponent?
A: I do my homework. I gather information on my opponent and watch fight footage with my trainers. We put together a training camp based on the strengths and weaknesses of my opponent and develop a game plan. Every day, in addition to my physical training, I take time to meditate and visualize the way the fight will play out.
Q: Are there any gay U.F.C. fighters?
A: I don’t know.
Q: How do you respond to critics who say that you have not “paid your dues,” in that the only reason your fights have been televised twice is because of your name and not necessarily your skill?
A: A lot of people lose sight of the bottom line: this is a business. It’s about making dollars by selling tickets, Pay-Per-Views, and merchandise. It’s up to the promoter to decide what is televised. I just train hard, then get in the octagon and fight.
In regard to the “You haven’t paid your dues” stuff: sure, I came into this sport with a name, but I didn’t just build my name and my reputation in pro wrestling. I also came in with twenty years of amateur wrestling experience.