“The bottom line: I don’t talk about my personal life with strangers. This one time, and this one time only. You are invited to join me in my private world for a few hours. Just don’t ever expect another invitation.” – back cover of Death Clutch: My Story of Determination, Domination, and Survival, Brock Lesnar’s autobiography
Harper Collins provided me with an opportunity that comes too infrequently in MMA — a chance to talk to Brock Lesnar one-on-one, to discuss his new book, while he’s in a good mood. The truth about Lesnar? He came from a small town, worked extremely hard, and utilized a wrestling persona to become the number one MMA draw. Does he hate the media? How much money does he make? And what does he think of promoters like Vince McMahon who pull all the strings? Read our three-part interview series with the controversial UFC heavyweight contender and find out…
BRIAN D’SOUZA: Death Clutch is your story, it’s your autobiography, it’s written in conjunction with Paul Heyman. First of all, tell us a little bit about your relationship with Paul, when you first met him?
BROCK LESNAR: I met Paul back in 2001, working for the WWE, and Paul was working as a writer for Vince McMahon, and I met Paul one day, he came up, and introduced himself. The next thing I knew, we were working together, and he was my onscreen manager and we became friends throughout the process, and stayed in contact over the years, and it was a delightful process for him and I to get together and reminisce and put this book together.
So of course, he had a lot of writing experience. I noticed the book is well-written.
Yeah, the main reason I decided to do this with Paul is because I felt comfortable having a conversation with him about all the subjects. Between him, the publisher, and my attorneys, I believe it’s a well-written book.
Can you tell me a little about your relationship with Erik Paulson, one of your trainers?
Erik is a Minnesota guy, and I met Erik through Greg Nelson. Greg was one of the first guys that started training me for Mixed Martial Arts and throughout the process, I was able to meet Erik Paulson; being fellow Minnesotans and Erik having a plethora of knowledge in the sport he’s been a mentor of mine throughout the full process.
I heard a rumor — maybe true, maybe not — that before the Shane Carwin fight you stopped working with him and concentrated on other trainers. Is that true?
Well no, I’ve cycled a lot of different people through. At one time, I brought Peter Welch in. I’ve never really quit working with anybody. I just didn’t have the opportunities or enough time throughout my weeks when I needed to fit people in and all these guys, [I] kept an open relationship with all these people. I’ve used them for one day in a training camp, or an entire training camp. Sometimes our schedules — because they’re off doing seminars, or what not — sometimes our schedules never work out. But these guys — I attribute a lot of my success to being coached by these guys.
What’s your philosophy in sparring? Do you go all-out, or do you go very light like they do in Thailand to preserve themselves?
To get the general feel — there’s days when we have [light] sparring, and there’s days when we have full-out sparring. For me to get the feel, there’s days when we’re going full-out, and I think you have to, because if you don’t gain the experience in the training room, you can’t have it in the octagon.
Going back to the book, you talk about the influence of your parents putting you in many sports, like many parents do here in Canada, here in North America. What do you think the psychological effect of not hearing a lot of praise was? Did it affect you a little bit?
Well no, there was a lot of positive energy around me. My mom — it might have come across in the book where all my mom wanted me to do was win, but it was an energy she wanted me to understand that I’m in this to win this. Both my mom and dad were very supportive. My mom just didn’t want to hear any whining if I lost.
I can see that. We do have something in Canada like hockey parents or soccer parents — I can only draw on my own experiences — not everyone’s a natural athlete or very gifted, as you obviously were. Psychologically, sometimes people have different talents, too. It’s pretty common, don’t you think?
Oh, absolutely. They want their children to succeed, but I believe there’s a thing of over-coaching and over-parenting. You can’t force anybody to do anything, and me being a parent, I understand that very well. If my children don’t want to participate in an activity, I don’t think it’s right for me to force them to do anything.
It can be a problem with some coaches, too. Early on, some would threaten me — some couldn’t make it themselves — even to the point of [threatening] physical violence. That can be very uncomfortable. In wrestling circles, there’s [high school] players who’ve died, football players who’ve died of dehydration, wrestlers who’ve died of dehydration. It’s completely unnecessary in my opinion.
There are coaches out there that shouldn’t be coaches. And there’s parents out there that shouldn’t be parents. But what are you going to do about it? Nothing.
Moving on, you went to Lassen Community college [in California] and you mention not having a lot of money, having to struggle a lot. Where did you stay? I don’t think that that’s completely explained [in the book], to pick up a couple credits.
I stayed with the wrestling coach there. He was kind enough to rent me a room in his house there for little or nothing, and that was an experience that I’ll never forget: driving out to California to a junior college [when] at the time I had never been out of South Dakota or Minnesota or North Dakota, so it was quite the adventure for a young lad.
That’s exciting, because you leave home once, and you find yourself constantly leaving and jetting off to different places.
Yeah, unexpected places. It made life interesting, that’s for sure.
You talk a little about media attention. It starts off during your [college] wrestling career because you’re winning, you’re being successful, you talk about your dislike for it. Were you proud when you were profiled by GQ in 2010, in July?
Yeah. I guess I shouldn’t say that I really dislike the media, I don’t. It’s just that when it’s time for me to isolate myself and to stick to a job where it’s just me or a family man, I’ve been very private in those areas. Anytime that I have something to legitimately talk about, I’ve got no problem dealing with the media.
Checkout Cagepotato.com for the next installment of our interview with Brock Lesnar.