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Lesnar separates public from private

Kevin Iole
Yahoo Sports

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Brock Lesnar doesn't read any of the millions of words that have been written about him. He doesn't have "The Ultimate Fighter" set to record automatically on his DVR. On Thursday during a television interview with Jim Rome, Lesnar claimed not to know Chael Sonnen, who only two months ago came within seconds of defeating Anderson Silva for the Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight title.

The UFC heavyweight champion is an outsider in the sport he dominates. Few of the other fighters know him well and those who do don't have anything to say about him. There are more leaks about President Obama's plans for the war in Afghanistan than there are from Lesnar's camp about any aspect of his life, in the cage or out of it.

Lesnar does his share of interviews and public appearances in order to build interest in his fights, as all UFC fighters are required to do. But Lesnar controls his appearances in a manner that others are unable to do. Many of the fighters are exceptionally open and reveal the most intimate details of their private lives with the public. Court McGee has been extraordinarily open about his battles with heroin addiction. Aaron Simpson was forthcoming about his mother-in-law serving as his child's surrogate mother.

They provide a look into their souls and what makes them tick as men and as fighters.

But there is no such look inside Lesnar's world. There are no photos of Lesnar with his wife and family on a weekend outing, since Lesnar declared them off-limits.

He's by far the biggest star in mixed martial arts, as evidenced by the fact that each of his last three bouts has sold more than a million pay-per-views and generated about $14 million in ticket sales.

He'll fight in front of another sellout crowd on Saturday at the Honda Center when he defends his UFC heavyweight title against unbeaten Cain Velasquez in the main event of UFC 121.

But ask his training partners what kind of camp he had and how he'll cope with Velasquez and they're suddenly very late for an appointment.

The truth is, there isn't a lot to know. He's a simple guy with simple tastes who prefers a night at home in Alexandria, Minn., to a night in a club packed with people.

"It's very basic for me," Lesnar said. "When I go home, I don't buy into any of the b.s. Like I said, it's pretty basic: Train, sleep, family, fight. It's my life. I like it."

Lesnar is an extraordinarily competitive man – "I'll tell you, I'm a sore frickin' loser," he said – and in an amazingly short time, has become one of the world's finest fighters.

[Related: Breaking down the Lesnar vs. Velasquez matchup]

For as much success as he's had, though, he still doesn't get the kind of recognition he deserves. This is a man who in four of his five UFC fights has faced a current or former heavyweight champion.

In his last three fights, Lesnar has defeated Randy Couture, a Hall of Famer and the best strategist in the sport; Frank Mir, the best ground fighter in the heavyweight division; and Shane Carwin, the most powerful heavyweight in the world.

The scary part is, he's still improving rapidly. He's only been a professional for a little more than three years and he's still picking up the finer points of MMA that Couture had down solid years ago.

"I consider Brock one of the best of all-time and he's just getting started," UFC president Dana White said.

When it's all finally second nature to him, he may be virtually unbeatable. And so if there is a good time to get him, it must be now. In Velasquez, he meets a guy who has essentially the perfect style to beat him. Velasquez is a better pure boxer, has good movement and unlimited cardiovascular endurance.

The conventional wisdom is that if Velasquez can survive the first three rounds, the pendulum will tilt enormously in his favor.

Lesnar's legendary competitive nature won't allow him to concede even the smallest point to an opponent, and he's unwilling to concede he won't be able to keep pace if the pace is fast and the fight moves into the later rounds.

He loves what he is doing and fighting, unlike professional wrestling, gives him a vehicle to channel his competitiveness. Fighting is a job, and a means of supporting his family, but it's also a way of life for him.

As he's talking about the UFC's growth potential, White often says that "fighting is in our DNA; we get it and we like it." Lesnar's DNA is clearly loaded with the love-for-fighting genes.

Because he loves it so much, he's eager to go to work and, as any human resources director will tell you, a happy worker is a more productive worker.

"At the end of the day, we all sit up here and we just love this," Lesnar said of the fight game. "I don't have to prod myself to get out of bed in the morning. I try to be the first one to the gym. I'm so thankful and glad there is an Ultimate Fighting Championship, because if there wasn't, I don't know what I'd be doing with myself.

"I just want to be better and I want to be the best I can be. Everybody who fights and gets into the cage, that's the whole purpose of this: Proving that I'm better than the guy I've stepped into the ring with."

Since being submitted by Mir in his UFC debut, which was only his second pro bout, Lesnar has won four in a row and has gotten better each time out. But when it's over, he retreats into the anonymity of his home in Alexandria, Minn., where he keeps a small circle of friends and a very low profile.

During his appearance on Rome's show on Thursday, Lesnar was as revealing as he ever has been about his desire for privacy in his personal life.

"I've been in front of the cameras for 10, 12 years," the 33-year-old Lesnar told Rome. "I was a star at the University of Minnesota. I went on to World Wrestling Entertainment. Wannabe NFL player. And here I am, the UFC heavyweight champion.

"I just don't put myself out there to the fans and prostitute my private life to everybody. In today's day and age, with the Internet and cameras and cell phones, I just like being old school and living in the woods and living my life. I came from nothing and at any moment, you can go back to having nothing."

So, his private life will remain private. But he's leaving us a heck of a lot to talk about in his public life, and that's plenty good enough.

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