Calling his quick recovery from diverticulosis, a painful condition that develops when pouches form in the wall of the colon, a "miracle," Lesnar said doctors were "dumbfounded" after a recent checkup showed the recovery from a rupture in his stomach.
"There is literally no sign of anything even existing in there," Lesnar said. "I believe in the mind is a powerful thing. Everyday I was put in a position and had to view my life and world in a different way."
That wasn't the case in November. Worsening over a three-week period, Lesnar's body slowed as he prepared in Alexandria, Minn., to defend the UFC belt against Shane Carwin. After notifying the UFC that he wouldn't be able to fight, Lesnar, who was initially diagnosed with mononucleosis, traveled to Canada for a hunting trip. Lesnar's conditioned deteriorated, and one evening he said he awoke with a 104-degree temperature feeling "like I was shot in the guts."
Lesnar (4-1) returned to the U.S. to seek care, and spent an 11-day stretch at a facility in Bismarck, N.D. Greg Nelson, who oversees much of Lesnar's MMA and striking training, told SI.com after news of the illness broke that the heavyweight would fight again, but Lesnar said Wednesday he wasn't so sure. Lesnar didn't eat, couldn't drink, and the physical specimen shed 40 pounds in less than two weeks.
"I got a different take on life when you have everything taken away from you laying helplessly in your hospital bed not sure if I'm going to even get back in the octagon, something I've grown to love to do," he said.
Doctors put Lesnar, 32, on a heavy course of antibiotics and pain medication with hopes that he could recover without surgery, a procedure that would have resulted in his wearing a colostomy bag and the death of a very promising mixed martial arts career.
"This guy was looking at a completely different life, a different quality of life had he needed the surgery," said Lesnar's promoter, UFC president Dana White.
Seeking a second opinion at the Mayo Clinic, the recommendation came back that he required surgery once swelling subsided. But Lesnar had it in his mind that he would do anything to avoid going under the knife. After a checkup at the start of the year, Lesnar, who also employed holistic practices during his recovery, went back into the gym and quickly put 30 pounds back on his considerable frame.
The heavyweight pay-per-view draw plans on returning by the summer, and is expected to face the winner of March 27's UFC interim heavyweight title fight in Newark, N.J. between Frank Mir and Carwin.
"Let's be clear," Lesnar told ESPN, "I still am UFC heavyweight champion."
If the Mir-Carwin winner cannot meet Lesnar, White said either Antonio Rodrigo Noguiera or Cain Velasquez will get the chance depending on their results Feb. 21, in Sydney, Australia.