The pre-fight drama surrounding the UFC 141 main event fight between Brock Lesnar and Alistair Overeem seems more well suited to a soap opera magazine than a sports section.
The list of distractions has been many and varied. For Lesnar, there was a recurrence of diverticulitis that led to the surgical removal of a 12-inch piece of colon, and then there were legal charges stemming from a Canadian hunting excursion. For Overeem, there was a lawsuit aimed at his longtime team, his mother going through a third bout with cancer, and drug-testing issues.
Of all these problems, it was only the last that threatened to sidetrack the Dec. 30 fight, but on Tuesday, that obstacle was cleared when the Nevada state athletic commission (NSAC) confirmed that Overeem’s sample had tested negative for all prohibited substances.
That ended a saga that lasted over one month in a quest for a single urine sample for a test known as a “basic steroid panel.”
NSAC originally informed Overeem’s team that he would be required to take a random test on Nov. 17, coincidentally the same day that he returned home to Holland to care for his ailing mother. Overeem said that he didn’t receive notice until days later and then immediately submitted himself for a test at a lab. That lab, however, drew blood, and while NSAC acknowledged that they received the test and confirmed its normal results, they required a urine test to license him.
Overeem eventually took a urine test, but by the time its results became available, NSAC had met and required him to take another one at an independent lab of their choosing. Those results -- clean across the board -- were finally released on Tuesday. Overeem’s license is still conditional on him taking and passing one more standard pre-fight drug test the night before the fight.
If the prospect of potentially losing out on his UFC debut is weighing on him, Overeem hasn’t shown it. On a teleconference, the 6-foot-5, 255-pounder with the superhero physique noted that he’s heard whispers about his build for some time. Given all the of the other issues swirling around him, it was just one of many things he tuned out.
“I tried to keep it as plain and simple as normal,” Overeem said of his training camp.
Lesnar, usually known for his orneriness before a fight, actually held back on needling his opponent, noting that he’s worn the same shoes.
“I’ve been dealing with the same accusations my whole life,” he said. “Being part of the spotlight and with the internet and everything, social media, where everyone knows everything, it’s part of the lifestyle. It comes with the territory. I’ve been used to it for many years now.”
But Lesnar, a modern luddite who doesn’t own computer and only rarely watches television, said he wasn’t really aware of Overeem’s issues up until now, even though it could have left him all dressed down and nowhere to fight on the 30th.
As it stands now, at least most of the issues that colored the lead-up to it are resolved. Lesnar is healed up, and he recently paid a $1,725 fine and had his hunting license suspended. Overeem is a mere formality away from having his fighter’s license approved, he’s formed his own camp, and while his mother is still fighting her cancer recurrence, he plans to stay with her in Holland through Christmas before traveling to Las Vegas for the bout.
That long drama behind them, the duo are both expecting it to be a short night when it comes to the actual fighting, each saying it’s not likely to go past two of the scheduled five rounds.
“We’re not the type of guys who back up,” Overeem said. “We’re fighters who want to finish fights.”
After the roller coaster ride that’s led up to it, it would be more apropos to result in a wild match with twist and turns. But Lesnar and Overeem say the distractions are left behind, and all that has come before it is meaningless. The only important reality is the other guy standing across the way. With both men hoping to win and become the No. 1 contender to the heavyweight championship, it is future concerns that are the more pressing matter, as Overeem summed up in a simple sentence.
“One of us is going to take a step up and one of us is going to take a step down,” he said.
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