“He’s a big guy, like me,” Overeem shrugged, after he and Lesnar squared off for a staredown on stage at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. “I thought he was taller because of the UFC poster, but he was actually shorter than me.”
Just prior to the official weigh-ins for the UFC’s network television debut on Saturday, Lesnar and Overeem took part in a borderline chaotic public media conference to promote their Dec. 30 title eliminator in Las Vegas. A few hundred fans turned out early to the venue just blocks from the Santa Monica pier and many of them didn’t shy away from letting two of the most polarizing figures in MMA know how they felt about them.
Perhaps taking a cue from the boisterous crowd, the two fighters hammed it up. Overeem told the crowd he planned to “tear Lesnar to pieces” to which Lesnar responded, “good for you.”
Making his first public appearance for the fight company since his second bout with diverticulitis, Lesnar appeared in a particularly jovial (and antagonistic) mood. He answered a question about rumored weight loss from his illness by flexing his bicep. He quipped “we’re BFFs now” when a reporter asked his thoughts on former “Ultimate Fighter” foe Junior dos Santos.
Following their staredown, Lesnar turned on his heel and walked away from Overeem without a second glance.
If the former UFC heavyweight champion’s goal was to get a rise out of the perennially reserved Overeem, however, score Round 1 for the Dutch striker.
“I think he’s just being relaxed,” Overeem said minutes later. “He’s coming out of a loss and he just had an illness. I’m sure not going to underestimate him. I’m sure he’s going to be there 100 percent, if not 120 percent.”
Just as Lesnar’s UFC return is clouded by another lengthy absence battling his intestinal ailment, Overeem’s Octagon debut is shrouded in his own personal turmoil.
Just days ago he filed a lawsuit, claiming his former managers at Golden Glory and Knock Out Investments owe him some $151,000 in back pay. As a result, he’s split with his longtime trainers and moved his camp from Holland to Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas. There, he’ll get ready for Lesnar while still trying to shake the memory of his ouster from the Strikeforce grand prix tournament following a disappointing showing against Fabricio Werdum in June.
For now, Overeem said he’s done taking about his legal battle with Golden Glory. In what is becoming a well-worn refrain from fighters this week, he maintained that all those outside pressures are irrelevant to the preparations for his next fight.
“I would say I’m more focused than ever,” he said. “Of course there are some distractions here and there, but I am very focused.”
Overeem also didn’t want to talk much about the specifics of his training, his game plan, or who will corner him in the wake of his split from Golden Glory. On the other hand, he said he’ll be ready to fight the former NCAA wrestling champion on the feet or on the ground and guaranteed a knockout victory in either the first or second round.
“I never talk about my opponents before the fights, but obviously his standup is not my level,” Overeem said. “Nevertheless, he’s a strong guy and anything can happen in a fight.”