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'I have to do this': Brock Lesnar to face hard-hitting Mark Hunt in UFC 200 return

Star Phoenix Star Phoenix 6/06/2016 Dave Deibert, Saskatoon StarPhoenix
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Even when Brock Lesnar was on top of the fight game, he feels like he wasn’t at the top of his game.

A powerhouse wrestler with the charisma to match, he won the Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight title and was arguably the biggest draw in company history.

Still, he feels like a stomach ailment robbed him of his best years. Insisting he wouldn’t be able to live with himself two decades from now if he didn’t chase his dreams while he still could, the former heavyweight champion will return after nearly five years to the octagon on July 9 in the co-main event of UFC 200 in Las Vegas when he faces No. 8-ranked heavyweight New Zealander Mark Hunt (12-10-1).

As tough as his foes inside UFC’s cage were, it was his battle with diverticulitis that ultimately cut short the fighting career of Lesnar (5-3). Proclaiming himself healthier than he’s ever been, Lesnar said he’s a big believer in “living out your dreams and facing your fears.”

“This thing haunted me on the inside for a long time,” Lesnar said Monday during an appearance on ESPN’s Sportscenter, announcing Hunt as his opponent at UFC 200.

“The true competitor in me is still alive and well. I have to do this.”

Kiwi fighter Mark Hunt © Getty Images Kiwi fighter Mark Hunt Lesnar last competed in UFC in 2011, losing to current heavyweight challenger Alistair Overeem, before returning to World Wrestling Entertainment.

Last year, he strongly considered leaving WWE and rejoining UFC but decided against it. He felt like performing in WWE’s ring could help satisfy his competitive nature. Almost immediately, however, he began second-guessing himself.

“I couldn’t live with that decision,” he said. “That decision has haunted me for the last 15 months. I figured I couldn’t live like that for the rest of my life.

“This is very simple. This was me, sitting having a cup of coffee at my farm in Canada, waking up every morning and feeling this feeling of, ‘Was that the right decision? Was that the right decision?'”

UFC fighter Brock Lesnar arrives at the weigh-ins for UFC 141 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas in 2011 © PA UFC fighter Brock Lesnar arrives at the weigh-ins for UFC 141 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas in 2011 Between his 2008 debut and last appearance in 2011, Lesnar lost nearly two years of his fighting career as a result of diverticulitis, the potentially-fatal stomach illness. “I felt like I was cheated out of my career in the UFC,” Lesnar said.

The WWE said Saturday that Lesnar will still perform for the promotion at SummerSlam on Aug. 21 after his UFC bout.

“Brock Lesnar remains under contract to WWE, however, he has been granted a one-off opportunity to compete at UFC 200,” WWE said in a statement.

Hunt (12-10-1), a world-class kickboxer, is one of the hardest hitters in MMA and currently on a two-fight winning streak. Ranked No. 8 in UFC’s heavyweight division, Hunt most recently knocked out former heavyweight champion Frank Mir.

Lesnar won an NCAA heavyweight wrestling title before joining World Wrestling Entertainment in 2000.

After almost a decade with WWE, he abruptly quit the company and eventually entered the world of MMA. In 2008, he signed with UFC, beating Randy Couture in his third fight with the company to win the heavyweight title.

His UFC 100 main event versus Frank Mir in 2010 helped draw a company-record 1.6 million buys on pay-per-view.

Lesnar said he didn’t care who he fought in his UFC return. He just wanted in on the action. UFC 200 now features a light heavyweight title bout between champion Daniel Cormier and interim title holder Jon Jones, a bantamweight title bout pitting champion Miesha Tate against Amanda Nunes and an interim featherweight title match between Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar.

“I’ve never turned down a fight in the UFC. I’ve never walked away,” Lesnar said. “Even when I was the champ, I never turned down a fight. Even when I was fighting to be the champion, I never turned down a fight. If Dana White called me and said, ‘You have opponent X,Y, Z. Who do want?’ He never gave me those options. ‘This is the guy we want you to face.’ I said, ‘Great.’

“I’m a grappler at heart. He’s a heavy hitter. I think that’s what the people want to see,” Lesnar said, noting that the match against Hunt has a similar feel to the early days of UFC, when it was much more style-versus-style.

“I think I match up very well. If Mark Hunt ends up on the ground, the fight’s over. Obviously I need to work on my standup game but I’m excited and enthusiastic of doing so.”

  060616-MMA_UFC_199_Reporter_20160605-228006008-MMA_UFC_199_Reporter_20160605-W.jpg: Brock Lesnar © JOHN LOCHER Brock Lesnar


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