UFC champion Brock Lesnar says long battle with illness is over

It’s hard to pinpoint a bigger example of MMA’s growth within mainstream media than the sight of Brock Lesnar, with UFC president Dana White by his side, speaking live on ESPN’s SportsCenter this morning to give an emotional, rambling summary of the illness that has kept him out of action for months and sent him to the hospital for 11 days.

The news at the end of his speech: He’s over his illness and ready to train to defend his heavyweight title this summer. White says he will fight the winner of the March 27 interim title bout between Frank Mir and Shane Carwin if that winner is healthy and able to fight again quickly. If the Mir-Carwin winner can’t go, Lesnar will fight the winner of the Feb. 20 bout between Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Cain Velasquez.

Lesnar gave some details of his illness, though some aspects weren’t quite clear. He stumbled over his words slightly, clearly showing the emotional effects of his ordeal, and identified his illness as both diverticulitis and diverticulosis, two related colon ailments.

He said he was first told he had mono, but that diagnosis didn’t seem right to him. So he went to Canada for a hunting trip and wound up with severe stomach pain and a 104-degree fever. He took a quick jab at the Canadian health care system, saying he found right away that he needed to return to the USA, though he was apparently misdiagnosed in the USA before leaving the country.

He sought several opinions and was grateful to his doctors. The darkest period appeared to be an 11-day hospital stay in which he says he had no food or water — consistent with treatment to “rest the colon” — and lost 40 pounds while on an IV.

Faced the prospects of surgery that he said could affect his quality of life, let alone his fighting career, Lesnar resisted as long as possible before “a miracle” — scans this month showing no signs of trouble.

And so Lesnar will face either Mir (for the third time in his six-fight career), Carwin, Nogueira or Velasquez — healthy and undoubtedly motivated, having already won a big fight outside the cage.

UPDATES from the conference call later in the afternoon:

– If Lesnar had gone through with the surgery, he would have needed a second surgery a couple of months later. In short, surgeons would have removed part of his colon and gone with a temporary measure, then gone back in when the inflammation had healed so that they could reattach two parts of his column. He can recover from that, but he says he would have probably retired.

– He takes responsibility for not following through with his illness before going to Canada. He did indeed have a positive test for mononucleosis, which explained some of his symptoms. Doctors recommended a CT scan for the other symptoms. He didn’t do it. Then he got very sick in Canada.

– Lesnar’s wife drove him — while he was in excruciating pain — back to North Dakota.

– He said he wasn’t “bashing” Canada’s health care system, saying he would’ve tried to get back home from wherever he was, but he did have some pointed comments about health care plans, saying he was opposed to “socialism.” He did not address his insurance plan and whether other fighters in his situation would’ve been covered.

– Though Frank Mir had kind words for him after Mir’s last fight, wishing him well in his recovery, Lesnar called Mir a “stalker” and said he hopes he can fight him again. “I didn’t beat him as bad as I could,” Lesnar said.

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