What Does the future hold for Brock Lesnar?
When Brock Lesnar first appeared in the public eye on WWE Monday Night Raw all those years ago, your writer, then a nine-year-old pro wrestling fan, was still coming to terms with the premise of ‘kayfabe’. (which for those of you, not rasslin’ inclined essentially means Stone Cold Steve Austin wasn’t really beating all those guys up with a pool cue.)
Nonetheless, Lesnar’s sheer size and athleticism were immediately striking. His imposing stature and eye-catching tattoos made him look almost cartoonish, like a caricature of a Heavyweight fighter.
Of course, those in the know will have remembered the University of Minnesota wrestler for his remarkable college career. A two time All-American, two time Big Ten Conference champion and NCAA Heavyweight champion in the year 2000. Lesnar ended his four years in college with a 106-5 record.
As was the case with most promising young Amateur wrestlers of the time, the lure of Vince McMahon’s millions proved stronger than any further goals on the mat, and Lesnar joined the WWE shortly after. Two years in developmental territory Ohio Valley Wrestling followed, before ‘The Next Big Thing’ truly lived up to his nickname.
Embarking on a hugely successful career in both the WWE and New Japan Pro Wrestling. Lesnar picked up multiple championships and headlined multiple pay-per-views, something that would become somewhat of a theme of his career.
Brock Lesnar Joins K1
In April of 2006, Brock Lesnar announced that he would be joining legendary Japanese fight promotion k1 in their Mixed Martial Arts league. Lesnar would train with fellow former Minnesota U wrestler Greg Nelson at the Minnesota Martial Arts Academy, home of former UFC titleholder Dave Menne. And (at the time) reigning UFC Lightweight champion, Sean Sherk.
Lesnar’s debut was booked as the co-headline attraction at one of the biggest MMA events of 2007, Dynamite!! USA. The show in Los Angeles was a co-promotion from k1 owners FEG, and US promotion EliteXC.
The bill saw the likes of Melvin Manhoef, Brad Pickett and Jake Shields all compete. Whilst the other co-main, Royce Gracie’s victory over Kazushi Sakuraba in a rematch of their iconic 90-minute war from Pride 7 years previously. Was the fight that drew in most of the MMA hardcore, the debut of the former WWE champion was undoubtedly intriguing.
Lesnar faced Olympic Silver Medallist Judoka Kim Min-Soo, famous for his previous losses to Bob Sapp, Ray Sefo and Semmy Schilt among others. In what has often been referred to as his ‘UFC audition’, Lesnar shot in on the Korean, took him down and quickly gained full mount.
After just one minute and nine seconds of domination, Kim decided he wanted no more of his rookie opponent and tapped to strikes. Lesnar, it seemed, had passed his audition with aplomb.
Avoiding a Freakshow
Dana White, always keen to avoid the freakshow, was hesitant on committing to bringing Brock into the UFC prior to his debut. But after his comprehensive performance, White finally pulled the trigger in October of 2007. Lesnar was signed and set to make his debut against Frank Mir at UFC 81. As a co-main event to the interim Heavyweight title battle between Tim Sylvia and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.
Whilst expected by many casual fans to maul his smaller opponent, the experts were a little more cautious; with many suggesting Frank Mir’s experience and submission, skills primed him to cause the upset. Brock began by bull-rushing Mir and reigning down punches after securing top position.
The crowd at the Mandalay Bay were on their feet, but the ever-slick Mir waited for a mistake and caught his inexperienced opponent in a kneebar; tapping him after 90 seconds of a thrilling fight. As Mir went on to defeat Big Nog for the Interim belt, Lesnar was busy running through Heath Herring. And at UFC 91, won the belt with a victory over Randy Couture.
It was clear for all to see, Lesnar was warming to the sport. Having built his own team designed to get the best out of him, Team Deathclutch, with fellow Heavyweights Pat Barry, Chris Tuchscherer, Jon Madsen and Cole Konrad all training with him in Minnesota. The former WWE star was becoming the biggest thing in the business.
Taking on Frank Mir
As well as putting him on a collision course with his conqueror, Frank Mir, the victory over Couture was the first of a remarkable four 1 million+ PPV buys of his short UFC tenure. His eventual (and devastating) victory over Mir at UFC 100 the highest of which. With a massive 1,600,000 buys, earned Lesnar a reputation as a PPV machine.
Something which he has maintained through his second spell in the WWE. Brock Lesnar fans from the WWE tuned into UFC broadcasts to see how their boy was doing, and the MMA/Wrestling ‘apples and oranges’ concept no longer existed. His thrilling win over Shane Carwin, and loss to current champ Cain Velasquez also appear on the top 6 highest selling PPVs of all time.
Though his retirement after a one-sided stoppage loss to Alistair Overeem was expected. It was nonetheless a huge loss to the UFC’s PPV drawing power.
Which is why it is never a surprise to see rumours of his return. A surprisingly common occurrence, Dana White is forced to comment on the potential return of one of the USA’s leading PPV draws on a regular basis. Having admitted back in January that it was “definitely a possibility” the rumour mill died down for a few months, but now seems to have returned.
A Lesnar return would divide opinion in the MMA world, with some no-doubt feeling that based on previous results. It would be little more than a cash-in. Others would sensibly be concerned about Brock’s well being. His latter years in the UFC being heavily blighted by a chronic case of diverticulitis.
With his contract reportedly up in the WWE, rumours are flying all over the media in both MMA and in Pro Wrestling that Lesnar and his team of advisors are pitting the two corporate giants against each other. With Dana and Brock’s close relationship common knowledge. And Dana’s penchant for stirring the pot, all eyes will be on the UFC’s “can’t miss event announcement” set for November 17th.
Image courtesy of foxsports.com