As Brock Lesnar throws punches and scrambles through various moves in his “ground game” as a rapidly progressing professional in the mixed martial arts, you almost can’t help but flash back to what Clubber Lang said in his close-up moment in “Rocky III.” Lang, Sylvester Stallone’s ferocious opponent played by the oft-imitated, never-duplicated Mr. T, was asked his prediction for their fight. After a dramatic pause and a glare into the camera, he gives it: “Pain.”
Pain is what you think of as Lesnar sweats and strikes, and this is only practice. He is working out at the Minnesota Mixed Martial Arts Academy in Brooklyn Center, sparring recently in advance of his featured bout in “UFC 87: Search and Destroy” Saturday night at Minneapolis’ Target Center.
If the preparation hurts this much, you think, the serious combat in competition has to be excruciating. At that, Lesnar â€” a formidable 6-foot-3, 286 pounds, shrugs.
“I would have to say that this is probably at the top end of things not to do to your body,” he said, laughing. “It’s very demanding on the body. Every day, you come in and â€¦ some days you don’t want to be in here. You have to push yourself through those days.”
Lesnar has spent most of his adult life pushing his body through trials that would bring most of us to tears. The 2000 NCAA wrestling champion for the University of Minnesota, Lesnar turned to the hokum of professional wrestling as a way to make a lucrative living. Within four years, the WWE’s “The Next Big Thing” had been crowned a champion again and featured as the main event at “Wrestlemania.” Also, he reportedly was earning in excess of $1 million annually â€” a paycheck that dropped significantly when Lesnar tried to transform himself into a Minnesota Vikings defensive lineman in the summer of 2004. His freakish physical gifts weren’t enough to compensate for his lack of football experience and a past motorcycle injury, so after thanking the Vikings, Lesnar went searching for another door back into competition.
He found it in MMA, the brutal, seemingly no-holds-barred (actually, some are) fighting that has thrust itself into mainstream American sports. Nearly extinct in the mid-1990s in its original form â€” the ugly “Tough Man” mayhem without rules, the blood flowing mostly in grainy videos on obscure channels from minor venues â€” MMA got bought, revived and spruced up by Dana White and his business partners in 2001. White, the president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) circuit, added weight classes, time limits and restrictions to the sport â€” no groin-punching or hair-pulling, for instance â€” and has ridden it to unimagined popularity and financial success, with heavy TV exposure on CBS and the Spike network, hungry pay-per-view audiences and assorted video-game mania.
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