- Brett Okamoto, ESPN Staff Writer
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LAS VEGAS -- For whatever reason, the mixed martial arts community seems to constantly brace itself for the loss of Brock Lesnar.
Even as the former UFC heavyweight champion prepares to return to the Octagon this week after his second bout with diverticulitis, an intestinal disease, some question his desire to be there.
If Lesnar loses to Alistair Overeem in the main event at UFC 141, they ask, won’t that be it? Won’t he retire and disappear into a life of hunting, farming and perhaps the occasional, lucrative guest appearance in professional wrestling?
It’s a halfway popular theory but one that Lesnar doesn’t really understand. Battling back from a serious illness twice in the past 26 months should be, in his opinion, strong evidence that he’s committed to this sport.
“I don’t know why people question the desire,” Lesnar told ESPN.com. “What do I have to go through? What do I have to do?”
Granted, there are reasons that the 34-year-old might not hang around.
He won the UFC heavyweight title in just his fourth pro fight. That built the perception that, yeah, he’d like to win it back, but it’s not necessarily enough to keep him in the sport.
He seems to get as far away from the UFC as possible when not competing. In the cage, his toughest fights arguably have been his past two, and the man doesn’t need to fight to make money. If Lesnar wanted to make a living elsewhere, he could.
Is it that hard to believe, though, that Lesnar would continue in MMA -- even should he lose this week -- simply because he actually enjoys it?
“I like it. I like doing it,” Lesnar said. “I’m not ready to be done. I’ve made a little bit of money here and there, but at the end of the day, I think it’s my identity. It’s who I want to be.”
Despite the long layoffs and a first-round TKO loss to Cain Velasquez in his last fight, Lesnar still believes he is one of the best, if not the best, heavyweight mixed martial artist in the world.
He sees a champion in Junior dos Santos whom he was supposed to fight in June but didn’t because of his health. He was confident in his chances headed into that matchup. The fact that that man is now at the top is likely a source of confidence for him.
“I think I am one of the best heavyweight fighters out there,” Lesnar said. “I can honestly say that because I wouldn’t be sitting here if it wasn’t true.
“Junior has the belt, but he’s one power punch or one submission away from losing it. I’m going to go out and do the best job I can to put me in position to face Junior.”
Yes, Lesnar would have reason to leave the sport the next time he comes up short. He’s got plenty of reasons to continue, too.