Lesnar Was Set-up To Be Mma’s Biggest Villain
When Brock Lesnar made his UFC debut on February 2, 2008, his fate as the UFC’s version of a WWE “heel” had already been sealed. Lesnar was really the perfect candidate to be the biggest villain the sport had seen. With his cartoonish physique, big mouth and pro wrestling background, most fans had already decided to hate him before he ever stepped into the Octagon. He represented something they wanted nothing to do with. He came from a “fake” sport with predetermined outcomes and entered an organization that coined the term, “as real as it gets.”
It probably didn’t help that the former NCAA heavyweight wrestling champion made his UFC debut after just one professional fight. It gave the fans and fighters alike a reason to say Brock didn’t belong. He hadn’t earned his shot to fight on the sport’s biggest stage. UFC President Dana White and matchmaker Joe Silva certainly didn’t do him any favors either; Lesnar’s first fight was held at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in front of local boy and heavy crowd favorite Frank Mir. Even after Lesnar lost the fight though, White seemed almost giddy when talking to him in the locker room. He knew he had found a man the fans would love to hate.
Despite a dominant performance against Heath Herring in his third professional fight, the fans cried foul when Lesnar was awarded a title shot in only his fourth career fight. Hardcore MMA fans thought someone like Fabricio Werdum was more deserving of a shot at Randy Couture’s heavyweight crown. Deserving or not, Werdum had zero chance at drawing in as many fans as Lesnar did. The casual MMA fan probably couldn’t pick him out of a lineup of the UFC’s many Brazilian fighters. With Brock, there would be no such problem.
In what the UFC billed as “the biggest fight in MMA history” Lesnar was once again forced to fight in hostile territory against one of the sport’s most popular fighters. Like Mir, Couture also lives and trains in Las Vegas. Undersized compared to most heavyweights and old enough to be the father of some of his opponents, the man nicknamed Captain America was overpowered by Lesnar and as the UFC crowned their newest champion, the boos rained down from the audience.
It was clear that the fans were looking for someone to take out Lesnar and they thought the only man to defeat him, Frank Mir, was the perfect candidate. When the two met for the second time at UFC 100, the fight was almost an afterthought compared to Lesnar’s post-fight antics. After demolishing Mir in quick fashion, Brock managed to get in his face one last time, flip off the crowd and knock one of the event’s biggest sponsors. He appeared to finally be embracing the role the UFC wanted him in.
Even after the fight when Dana White gave him a closed-door slap on the wrist for his conduct, there is little doubt that he did it mainly to please the organization’s sponsor that Lesnar had ripped in his post-fight interview. White’s plan had come into fruition. MMA message boards lit up with talk of who could be the man to beat the hated Minnesotan. One of the UFC’s top heavyweight contenders, Shane Carwin, even ripped Lesnar in his blog and has since been selected as the next man to challenge Lesnar for the heavyweight crown.
In the UFC, main-event competitors are paid in part based on the number of pay-per-view buys and very few people can sell an event the way Brock Lesnar. If Shane Carwin thinks he can generate the revenue that Lesnar can, he is kidding himself. So although he was quick to bash Brock for his post-fight celebration, Carwin should thank him when he receives his post-fight paycheck in November.
Although the UFC and WWE are very different, in some ways they are not. There are good guys and bad guys and having both makes for a much more compelling fight. Fans will always remember what they chose. Most conveniently ignored the fact that Frank Mir talked much more trash than Brock Lesnar in the build-up to their second fight and instead turned their scorn towards Lesnar when he decided not to touch gloves with someone who had been ripping him publicly for weeks leading up to their fight. The fans even yelled for referee Herb Dean to stand the two men up as Lesnar pummeled Mir mercilessly on the canvas. At the end of the fight one thing was clear; Lesnar had become a marked man and was loving every minute of it.
Now as Lesnar and Carwin prepare for their UFC 106 showdown in November, it’s almost a certainty that Dana White and company will milk the “Brock the bully” angle for all it’s worth. For Carwin, his biggest strengths are his size, power and wrestling ability. One problem; Brock Lesnar is bigger, stronger and a better wrestler. On the bright side, at least Carwin will have Lesnar to thank for the paycheck that buys his Thanksgiving dinner the week after the fight.