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UFC:

Happy Lesnar eyes heavyweight title

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Steve Marcus

UFC heavyweight champion Randy “The Natural” Couture, left, talks with Brock Lesnar during a news conference in the lobby of the MGM Grand Thursday, November 13, 2008. Couture will defend his title against Lesnar during UFC 91 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena Saturday.

Couture vs. Lesnar

UFC heavyweight champion Randy Launch slideshow »

Lesnar vs. Couture

Brock Lesnar and Randy Couture met with media members Wednesday afternoon to talk about their upcoming heavyweight championship fight Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

UFC 91

Alex and Andy Samuelson delve into the stories behind the Couture-Lesnar main event.

Fight facts

  • Main event: Randy Couture (16-8 mixed martial arts) vs. Brock Lesnar (2-1)
  • At stake: UFC heavyweight championship
  • Featured bouts: Kenny Florian (12-3) vs. Joe Stevenson (34-8), lightweights; Gabriel Gonzaga (9-3) vs. Josh Hendricks (18-4), heavyweights; Nate Quarry (16-2) vs. Demian Maia (9-0), middleweights; Dustin Hazelett (13-4) vs. Tamdan McCrory (11-1), welterweights
  • Time/site: Today at the MGM Grand Garden Arena; doors open at 4:15 p.m.
  • Tickets: $75-$1,000, mgmgrand.com
  • TV: Pay per view, $44.95

He can be cocky, moody, and downright rude. And Brock Lesnar’s also one XXXXL-sized punch away from holding the UFC’s heavyweight title and legitimizing himself as one of the top MMA athletes in the world.

“No doubt, he’s moody,” UFC president Dana White said of Lesnar, who walked off the set of an ESPN interview and has closed down at least a couple more media sessions prematurely.

“Right now though, he’s in a great freaking mood. I’ve never seen him like this. I think he’s excited and he’s about to do what’s he has always wanted, and that’s fight.”

Tonight at 7 p.m. Lesnar, the former WWE sensation, gets not only a shot at the UFC heavyweight title, but a test from a true UFC legend in Randy Couture at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

“I want to thank Randy Couture for making a comeback and allowing me the opportunity to step into the Octagon,” said Lesnar, at a news conference inside the MGM casino lobby on Thursday.

“Tomorrow night is a great opportunity for myself and I’ve prepared very diligently to beat Randy Couture. I’m coming for nothing less than to take the title away tomorrow night.”

The fact that the 31-year-old is getting a title opportunity with just two UFC fights under his belt may rub some MMA purists the wrong way, but White says Lesnar is ready and he is betting on the card to set a record with “1.2 million” pay-per-view buys.

“After the (Frank) Mir fight, I figured this guy in a few years was going to be really, really good. Then he came out and fought Heath Herring and I said Holy (expletive),” White said. “He’s ready.”

In his first UFC match against the former champion Mir, Lesnar controlled the fight but his inexperience cost him the bout when he made an ill-advised move and was submitted by a knee bar in the first round.

Lesnar smashed Herring in the early seconds of their fight, breaking his orbital bone. Lesnar put on an even more dominating performance than his match against Mir, but once again had trouble finishing off an opponent as the fight went the distance with Lesnar winning a unanimous decision.

“I dominated the whole fight, but there was a lot of things that we picked apart you know just to grow as a fighter,” Lesnar said. “I want to grow every single day, and in this camp, to do things to beat Randy Couture.

“Focusing on whether or not Randy has any weaknesses. He doesn’t have a lot of them, but we got to put him in positions to make him weak so we can control the fight.”

Controlling his emotions might be another task for Lesnar against the heavily experienced Couture. For the most part Lesnar has paid respect to the fan favorite, sans a couple comments here and there. But if the end of the Herring fight (Lesnar displayed some of his WWE showmanship traits by taunting the longtime fighter) is any indication, there may be some shoring up to do in that area of his game.

“I’ve tried to come in here and keep my mouth shut, as hard as that is for me,” Lesnar said with a smile. “I’m kind of numb to all this (media) stuff. But we’re not underestimating Randy Couture, not at all.

“He’s the pioneer, he’s the man. And he’s got something I dearly want.”

Couture shrugged off any notion that Lesnar’s antics have added any extra fuel to the fight, and said his main focus has been training to keep his title against such a physical specimen as Lesnar.

“Brock poses some very interesting problems with his athleticism and wrestling background,” said Couture of the 6-foot-3, 275-pound Lesnar.

“But the size is something I’ve been having to deal with the last two years.”

Lesnar’s quick to point out that he feels like he’s not only a better athlete than Couture’s last two opponents, Tim Sylvia and Gabriel Gonzaga, but obviously a better wrestler consider his collegiate career at the University of Minnesota.

“I predict that my wrestling background is going to present a problem for Randy with me being bigger and knowing how to wrestle,” said Lesnar, the 2000 NCAA heavyweight champ.

“But you also have to be able to stick your neck out there and change some things up if they’re not working, and I’m ready to do that.”

White says Lesnar already stuck his neck out there when he turned down the millions he could have earned in professional wrestling to get back and prove himself in the real fight game.

Plus the UFC President is finally happy to see his big guy in such a good mood.

“He’s feeling it, he’s got a little extra love from the fans. He’s ready and he’s excited for this fight,” White said.

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