Lesnar keeps it simple, stupid
You can call Brock Lesnar's world view lots of things, but complex isn't one of them.
Don't believe me? Just ask him. Start with a question about the pre-fight shenanigans for his main event bout with Alistair Overeem at UFC 141 next Friday night. I did. Here's what he told me: "All this stuff is bulls--- to me."
See? Simple. But by all means, Mr. Lesnar, do elaborate.
"It's all fake," he said in a phone interview on Tuesday afternoon. "The only thing that's real in my life is my family, my faith in God, and fighting. The rest of this stuff, everything is fake. That's how I look at life. The most important things are your family and faith and health, and everything else is bulls---."
Sure, we could argue over exactly what he means by "fake." Is Lesnar telling us that the world is an illusion? Or is he just telling us that most of it is, in his estimation, too dumb or insignificant to take seriously? Trust me, these are not follow-ups you want to bother Lesnar with. This is how you get your name added to the list of things that are "fake" and/or bulls---, assuming you weren't there already (and, let's be honest, you probably were).
It's often hard to know how seriously to take former pro wrestlers, particularly when they're in fight hype mode, as Lesnar is this week. He's got pay-per-views to sell and media responsibilities to fulfill, so there's always a chance that he's decided to crank up the dial to "full heel" just to create some buzz.
Still, there's good reason to take Lesnar seriously when he attempts to distill his world down to its simplest components and announces that everything beyond the range of his voice is meaningless. While it comes off as a characteristically brash way of dismissing all the non-Lesnar parts of the world, it's also a handy defense mechanism.
Not that Lesnar would use that phrase himself, of course. To admit you need some defense against the slings and arrows of public life would be to admit some form of weakness, and that's not the big man's style. After all, this is the same guy who told reporters it took him "about six hours" to recover from a surgery in which 12 inches of his colon were removed earlier this year. You think he's going to admit to having his feelings hurt by the legion of fight fans who bash him on the internet or boo him like a vaudeville villain when they see him at live events? Please.
But you do get windows into his coping strategies here and there, especially when he talks about another public figure he admires: Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow.
"There's a stand-up guy who's doing a lot of good things, a stand-up role model for kids, and this guy is taking a lot of criticism," Lesnar said. "I guess it comes with the territory. When you're in the spotlight and you're one of the best people in your division, you better have some heavy armor."
For instance, when critics say that Lesnar can't take a punch? When they point to his fights with Shane Carwin (whom he eventually came back to beat) and Cain Velasquez (whom he didn't) as proof that all it takes is a good thump on the skull to make him turn and run like a bully in an after-school special?
"I think it's a bunch of bulls---," Lesnar countered. "The fights that I've gotten hit, I've stood and banged with Heath Herring, Randy Couture, Frank Mir -- I've taken a lot of shots. I mean, Shane Carwin. And I've yet to be knocked out. I had refs stop a fight for a submission and a TKO, which is a referee stoppage. I've never been knocked out cold."
Here's where the cynic might argue that a) Herring, Couture, and Mir weren't exactly knockout artists when Lesnar fought them, while Carwin managed to drop him in the first round before punching himself out trying to finish, and also b) simply clinging to consciousness during a beating is not in itself a sign that you have a great chin, especially not if you lose the fight anyway, as he did against Velasquez.
But so what? This is where the suit of armor comes in. It's not that it helps you lie to yourself, exactly. But maybe it allows you to bend the truth, to mold and shape it to fit your purposes. People think you can't take a shot? Sure you can. You've never been knocked stiff, have you? Overeem has, so let people question his chin. If they don't like that, screw 'em. They're all bulls---, anyway.
Are you taking notes, Tebow?
Maybe this is the only way to do it. Maybe if you're not the type of person who can ignore all aspects of the outside world that don't align perfectly with your perception of yourself, you'd never have climbed to the top of the pro wrestling world, only to quit and decide to play in the NFL out of nowhere, only to then decide that you might as well climb in a cage and fight the toughest heavyweights in the world for money. Maybe if you were the kind of person who listened to outside criticism -- even the somewhat valid variety -- you'd have just stayed home instead. You certainly wouldn't have become UFC heavyweight champion in your fourth professional fight. You also wouldn't stand a chance of winning the title again.
As Lesnar put it, "I wouldn't be in this position, doing what I'm doing, if I was that horrendous of a fighter. I've got faith, I've got confidence in my skills, and I've got confidence that I can beat this guy."
Again, simple. When you're in Lesnar's shoes, it doesn't help to make things any more complicated than they have to be.