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Return of Brock Lesnar looms large for UFC

Lesnar in usual mood headed into UFC 141 main event against Alistair Overeem

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Sam Morris

Brock Lesnar talks to the media during an open workout in advance of UFC 141 Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2011. Lesnar will face Dutch heavyweight Alistair Overeem on Friday.

Updated Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011 | 9:24 p.m.

UFC 141 News Conference

UFC President Dana White separates Nate Diaz, left, and Donald Cerrone after Diaz shoved Cerrone during a news conference Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011 in advance of UFC 141 on Friday. Launch slideshow »

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A press conference featuring Brock Lesnar usually turns into an unofficial experiment timing how long the 6-foot-5, 265-pound former heavyweight champion can keep his cool while bombarded with questions he doesn’t care to answer.

It took less than five minutes Wednesday at the MGM Grand lobby. Lesnar (5-2 MMA, 4-2 UFC) broke out of his stoic pose and bit down on his lip when a reporter asked about oddsmakers installing him as an underdog at UFC 141 against Alistair Overeem (35-11 MMA, 0-0 UFC).

“I’m an underdog with a big (expletive) bite,” Lesnar exclaimed.

Lesnar is back. He’s back with the same short fuse for the media, the same permanent scowl on his face, the same sheer size that intimidates anything with a heartbeat and the same overall aura that attracts hundreds of fans hours early to any location where he’ll appear.

Although Lesnar hasn’t fought in 14 months and lost the UFC belt his last time out, he remains one of the UFC’s two biggest stars alongside welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre. Friday’s fight against Overeem at the MGM Grand Garden Arena is expected to come in as one of the UFC’s highest-grossing pay-per-view events of the year.

The UFC isn’t the same when Lesnar’s not around.

“For all the criticism Brock takes from some of the fans, it would be pretty damn boring if Brock Lesnar wasn’t in the heavyweight division,” UFC President Dana White said. “It’s exciting. It’s fun when he’s here. His fights are exciting and he’s a guy who has accomplished a lot of things.”

It’s more than Lesnar’s reputation as “the baddest man on the planet” or his superstar status dating back to his days in professional wrestling that intrigues fans. His reclusive nature when he’s not training for a fight is equally as fascinating.

Unlike most of the top fighters, Lesnar rarely travels the UFC fight circuit to promote himself when he’s not scheduled to fight. He takes refuge at his home in the Northern Minnesota woods or at his farm in Canada with limited access to luxuries like phones, televisions and the Internet.

He said he spent no time thinking about fighting — Lesnar had never even heard of Overeem before the UFC offered him the bout — when he wasn’t preparing for a bout. Lesnar is more concerned with hunting animals like white-tailed deer and producing crops like wheat and canola.

“I can go and spend 10 hours in my tractor driving up and down a field cultivating,” Lesnar said. “People wouldn’t last 10 minutes out there, but I go 10 hours listening to the radio and maybe chewing on some sunflower seeds or something.”

Lesnar’s seclusion does breed some negative consequences. Rumors about the 34-year old float around constantly.

For more than a year, numerous reports have indicated that Lesnar desired a return to the WWE. Lesnar doesn’t care enough to address the claims when they are released.

But when he comes out of his hibernation, he’s angered by that kind of talk. Lesnar said he viewed himself as only a UFC fighter and didn’t understand why that was so hard for others to accept.

“I don’t know why people question the desire,” Lesnar said. “For (expletive)’s sake, what do I have to go through? What do I have to do? I don’t know. I love what I do and I’m here.”

Everyone who comes into contact with Lesnar seems to have a different opinion on him. White’s view changes hourly.

Lesnar can come off as welcoming and talkative one second, according to White, and then transform into a major pain to deal with the next.

“He’s a real bundle of joy,” White deadpanned Wednesday.

White was specifically referring to when he’s worked alongside Lesnar on television. But UFC heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos, who coached against Lesnar on “The Ultimate Fighter” 13 earlier this year, had an entirely different experience.

Dos Santos said he enjoyed starring alongside Lesnar.

“The people who really know him know he’s not really that guy who appears on TV all the time doing crazy things and making crazy faces,” said dos Santos, who will face the winner of Lesnar vs. Overeem next year. “I think he’s more than that. I like him.”

Lesnar pays no attention to what others say about him. He’s never cared before and he’s not going to start now.

Nothing has changed for one of the UFC’s biggest draws.

“You guys can put whatever label you want on me,” Lesnar said. “I don’t really give a (expletive).”

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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  1. Ultimate ridiculousness.