It’s no secret that I’m a big Brock Lesnar fan. In fact, Brock made me more of an MMA fan today than I was before he entered the octagon. If Tito Ortiz and GSP introduced me to UFC and MMA in general, Brock Lesnar hooked me to it. However, my Lesnar fandom has a much deeper history, going back to his days in the WWE; far from the world of competitive combat sports and legitimate sanctioned bouts. This post is a mini career retrospective for one of the most polarizing athletes in WWE and UFC history.
Brock: The Next Big Thing
I was introduced to Lesnar after he won King of the Ring and garnered a WWE Undisputed Title shot against then champion, The Rock. I despised Brock Lesnar. Dubbed as “The Next Big Thing”, he was a freak of nature: towering at 6’3, billed weighing in at 295 lbs. of brute force and with an NCAA wrestling championship credential to match. He also was being managed by Paul Heyman, one of the most influential men in pro-wrestling. I also hated the fact that he’s going after The Rock, probably my all-time favorite wrestler. Brock would do all sorts of dastardly deeds leading up to their match at Summerslam. Billed as “Rock vs. Brock” they tore the house down with their match. Then, the inevitable came. Brock delivered the F5, pinned Rocky and became the youngest Undisputed WWE champion. He became a very dominant champion, manhandling bucks such as Rikishi and Mark Henry while inflicting his wrath on icons such as Hulk Hogan and the Undertaker. And who could ever forget his infamous botched Shooting Star Press on Kurt Angle at Wrestlemania XIX? That was as scary as it was awesome and while he botched that move, it made for a Wrestlemania moment that would be replayed in highlight reels for a long time. It seemed that Brock Lesnar was destined to a long and storied career in the WWE. He was on top of the wrestling world, and only at a young age of 25.
However, something changed within Brock. He became irritated with the travel schedules of the WWE, doing show after show, one city after another, one show to the next. He would question his bookings on matches and had issues with other wrestlers in the locker room (most notably the Undertaker). Perhaps the demand of being a huge WWE superstar has caught up with the young Lesnar. That said he decided to put a halt to his young wrestling career, despite a multi-million dollar contract offer by the WWE to re-sign him into a lone-term deal. He quit pro-wrestling after an illustrious but short 2-year career, and decided to try NFL where he believes his thirst for competitive sports will satisfy him. Luck wasn’t completely on his side though as he never made it to the final cut of the Minnesota Vikings.
Brock: The UFC Champion
After he tried (and failed at) football, he expressed his interest in MMA. His first fight was against Min Soo Kim, a relatively easy opponent (or a “can”, as hardcore MMA fans call it). He dominated Kim in quick fashion and in less than one round. Then the UFC came knocking on Lesnar’s doorstep. When I first heard about the news of Brock’s UFC signing, I was ecstatic. I wasn’t as big of an MMA fan back then, although I’ve been watching several UFC re-runs on Solar TV, with the likes of Royce Gracie, Ken Shamrock, Tito Ortiz, Chuck Liddell and Georges St.-Pierre. Brock’s entry into the UFC ignited a new-found fandom in MMA.
Brock’s UFC career was a roller coaster ride. His first fight in the organization didn’t go well as he tapped out to a kneebar from jiujitsu ace Frank Mir. Though he was dominating the early moments of the fight, a rather controversial point deduction was awarded to him by referee Steve Mazzagatti via strikes to the back to head which led to the stand up and the eventual submission. He was defeated that night probably due to nerves and inexperience but he showed that he was no slouch and can hang in there with the big boys.
His next fight came in the form of Texas Crazy Horse Heath Herring. In this fight, Brock showed shades of a great fighter: excellent wrestling and top control coupled with relentless ground and pound. The straight right that had Herring rolling through the cage was a thing of beauty. Brock won via unanimous decision and would later be challenging for the title held by Randy Couture. The title fight with Randy was filled with intrigue. Couture has a storied career of beating the odds against opponents who had youth as an advantage. Questions rose about whether Brock’s sheer brute strength and size will be enough to handle Couture’s experience and game planning. The answer was a resounding yes. After clipping Randy with a punch to the temple, Brock drove down his “lunchboxes” to his foe’s face at full velocity, earning him his first UFC heavyweight championship. Once again he was on top, this time in the MMA world. Or was he?
A title unification fight was then announced to declare the UFC Undisputed Heavyweight Champion. Brock’s opponent: Frank Mir, then Interim UFC Heavyweight Champion and the man who blemished Brock’s MMA record. This was a win-win situation for Brock, Frank, the UFC and MMA fans in general. For Brock, he has the chance to avenge his only loss. For Frank, he has the chance to prove that his submission win over Lesnar wasn’t a fluke and regain the UFC title in the process. For the UFC, this means big business as Lesnar has proven to be a tremendous draw, perhaps the biggest draw in the entire company. Add that with a grudge match and some epic trash-talking from both camps and we have an instant must-see fight for the fans. Brock was especially excited for this fight though as he wasn’t gonna let Frank Mir trash him about how he made the monster “cry Uncle”. This infuriated Brock and it showed in the fight. He controlled Mir from the opening bell with his wrestling, pinned Frank against the canvass and put in intense offense. By the start of the 2nd round, Frank was already bloodied up and you knew Brock smelled the hell out of it. Frank landed a nice knee to Brock’s chin but unfortunately led Lesnar on top of him. Brock continued his punching assault on the ground and from that position, it was only moments away until the referee stepped in to save Frank Mir from the horrendous beating. Brock celebrated, flipped off the pro-Mir Vegas fans, cursed his opponents post-fight, dissed major sponsor Bud Light and TMI’d the whole world that he was gonna “get on top of his wife”, to the delight of pro-wrestling converts. Brock was the undisputed champion and avenged his only MMA loss all in 5 pro fights. And the scary part is that no one seemed to dare cross his path of destruction.