A few years ago, it seemed like Brock Lesnar could accomplish anything except being humble. In 2000, he was the NCAA heavyweight wrestling champion. At 25, he became the youngest WWE champion in the company’s history. Then, after only four mixed martial arts fights, he was crowned UFC heavyweight champion. Even a subsequent bout with diverticulitis couldn’t slow him down. But two crushing knockout losses and a rematch with the intestinal disorder that resulted in the removal of 12 inches of his colon drove Lesnar out of the UFC and stripped him of bragging rights as the “baddest man on the planet.” Now that he’s making a pro wrestling comeback, he has two questions to answer: How does a guy who’s fought for real go back to doing it for entertainment? And does that mean he’s any safer?
“Life is all about timing,” says Brock Lesnar. “The first time I was with the WWE [Lesnar debuted in 2002], I was restless. I wanted to continue my career athletically and spread my wings a little bit.” The 6'3" 290-pounder made an impact on sports entertainment from the beginning, winning the company’s top prize and having memorable feuds with the Rock and John Cena. But his pedigree in real wrestling left him with a competitive hunger he couldn’t satisfy in a world where contest outcomes were predetermined. Lesnar left the company to fulfill a childhood dream of playing pro football. He joined the Minnesota Vikings but was cut in the pre-season. Lesnar then wrestled in Japan for two years, winning a heavyweight championship.
In 2007, Lesnar turned up in mixed martial arts, applying his collegiate-wrestling prowess to win an easy ground-and-pound victory over Min Soo Kim in a K-1 event. He then entered the UFC, and by November 2008 had bested the legendary Randy Couture for the heavyweight belt. The following summer, Lesnar went ballistic in celebration of his first title defense against Frank Mir. After beating the former champ bloody, Lesnar flipped the crowd the bird and announced he’d be drinking Coors Light that night because UFC sponsor Bud Light “won’t pay me nothin’.” By the fall of 2009, hubris, perhaps, intervened, and Lesnar was struck down by diverticulitis, an intestinal disease where the inner lining of the intestine becomes inflamed or infected. The tough S.O.B. had been living with it a year already.