Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2011 | 7:40 p.m.
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One fighter in the UFC knew about Brock Lesnar’s championship pedigree long before the rest of the organization.
UFC lightweight Jacob Volkmann was a teammate of Lesnar’s on the University of Minnesota wrestling team in 2000. Volkmann was a redshirt freshman the year Lesnar won a national championship.
“We never hung out or anything like that,” Volkmann said. “He was very quiet and kept to himself. He’s always been the same Brock.”
Volkmann went on to earn All-American honors in three of his four years after Lesnar graduated. A decade later, Volkmann is still improbably competing alongside Lesnar.
Volkmann (13-2 MMA, 4-2 UFC) appears on the preliminary card of UFC 141, which is headlined by Lesnar’s bout against Alistair Overeem, Friday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena against “The Ultimate Fighter” 8 champion Efrain Escudero (18-3 MMA, 3-2 UFC).
But Volkmann is riding a wave of success that Lesnar and most of the other fighters on the card can’t match. He’s won four straight fights since he started fighting at 155 pounds in March 2010.
Volkmann said a renewed training regimen accompanied his drop in weight class. The 31-year old who fights out of White Bear Lake, Minn., started working out three times per day after he started his UFC career 0-2 at welterweight.
“I wanted to make it like when I was in college,” Volkmann explained. “When I was wrestling in college, I was in a lot better shape. When I first got into the UFC, I didn’t know what it was going to be like at all. I underestimated the training you needed to do.”
Unlike Lesnar, Volkmann didn’t seek out a career in professional sports immediately after college. Volkmann worked as a chiropractor and coached wrestling before reaching the UFC.
He continues to coach wrestling at the youth and high school levels as much as ever, but couldn’t continue to run his chiropractic business full-time.
“I cut down the hours in the office and made it by appointment only,” Volkmann said. “When people call, I go in. I only do a few hours a week, so it’s not that much.”
He spends far more time at Minnesota Martial Arts Academy — the same gym Lesnar trained at early in his career.
“I only rolled with Brock once,” Volkmann said. “That was a very short-lived roll. I was on top and he just pushed me off. I went flying for about five feet. I looked up and said, ‘yeah, we’re done.’”
Volkmann isn’t particularly excited about sharing a card with his former teammate and being able to watch him at the end of the night. He’s barely noticed.
That’s how focused Volkmann is on Escudero. Volkmann wants to show the UFC he deserves a big step-up in competition. Volkmann felt he was ready for a top-ranked opponent after winning four in a row and was somewhat disappointed when he didn’t receive one.
“I have to finish because the UFC wants to see guys finishing fights,” Volkmann said. “That’s why guys are getting shots at the title and I’m not. I haven’t finished anyone yet.”
Escudero isn’t at a lack for motivation, either. “The Hecho en Mexico” has spent a year away from the UFC after he missed weight and lost a fight to Charles Oliveira in September 2010.
The UFC released him after the incident, a fate Escudero doesn’t want to think about suffering through twice.
“He better want this more than I do,” Escudero said through the UFC’s web site, “because I’ve been waiting for this moment for a while.”
Volkmann is no stranger to controversy himself. He jokingly called out President Barack Obama and said, “someone needs to knock some sense into that idiot,” earlier this year in an interview with MMAFighting.com.
The remark prompted a visit from the United States Secret Service, but didn’t escalate past that.
“It got my name out there and got a little bit of recognition,” Volkmann said. “It got the focus off of the horrible fight I had at UFC 125.”
Volkmann won a split decision over Antonio McKee in last year’s New Year’s Eve weekend card. But it was a forgettable fight without much action.
It was the exact kind of performance Volkmann said he couldn’t have against Escudero. Not when he’s anticipating major things in the near future.
“I’ve got to call someone out after this one, I guess,” Volkmann said. “I don’t know who, I guess whoever is in line. I’ll try to surprise.”