I've always thought that there's something telling about a man who grows a beard after tragedy or adversity (more on that later), but the Star Tribune talks about Lesnar's state of mind after getting inside access to his camp:
It's clear that Lesnar is more relaxed entering the Velasquez fight that he ever was for previous bouts.
I went to his camp last year, prior to his second bout against Frank Mir. He seemed tense. I was happy to get an invite to his camp but confident he didn't feel the same way.
But when I visited camp this week, I found a Brock Lesnar who was more open and forthcoming to folks outside of his circle. He talked to us for 30 minutes, and then he did a video interview that will air on StarTribune.com next week.
He also invited us to Jimmy John's where the UFC shot a segment for "Primetime."
I've covered Lesnar for a few years and I've never seen him so calm and accessible before a bout. Next Saturday should be exciting.
Much has been made of the "new" Brock Lesnar. This one equally if not more capable as a MMA competitor, but whose boorish and bullying antics/attitude seem muted after overcoming his first ever existential crisis. The question is will the serenity help him? My sense is yes. Lesnar is a habitual slow starter. He needs presence of mind to bring his talents to bear over the long haul. That's especially important against Velasquez, who will assuredly be a hefty challenge both early and late into the fight. A general calmness hasn't compromised his ability (calmness of attitude does not mean a lack of tenacity in preparation), so it should ostensibly provide mental and emotional clarity. It's hard to argue that's a detriment.
As for the beard comment, I have no data on it. It's hardly scientific, just a tiny observation from experience. But I know other notable figures have grown one after turning a corner in their life where the pivot point was defeat, tragedy or adversity. Al Gore after losing the election to George Bush in 2000, Conan O'Brien after losing his show on NBC, Washington Wizard Gilbert Arenas after his legal troubles and hiatus from the team are just some easy examples. I grew one after rough spot in 2009. It's not an albatross around the neck, but as aforementioned, recognition of a turning point. Yes, Lesnar grew the beard after the Carwin fight, so the theory isn't precise. But Lesnar is prone to self-decoration that's explanatory about chapters in his life. His dubious knife tattoo is a prominent example. The beard is another.
This is a new Lesnar. Older, wiser and less smug. Those are evolutions that enhance his ability to compete in the UFC heavyweight division. None of it will tell us if he can defeat Cain Velasquez, but I take his silence and serenity as a prioritization on focusing on what matters. Less distraction, more about the simple requirements of life. For Lesnar and for fight fans, that can only be a good thing.