The dust and remnants following the uber-hyped UFC 100 have finally settled and as one might imagine, quite a few storylines have emerged from the bloody rubble. At the center of the most hotly debated topic in town is none other than former WWE superstar turned failed NFL lineman turned UFC heel, Brock Lesnar.
Most of the articles I’ve been reading around the blogosphere (including some serious debate from you guys) have focused primarily on whether or not Lesnar’s ever-present professional wrestler attitude is good or not so good for mixed martial arts.
Personally, I subscribe to the semi-popular belief that Brock can do no further damage to the sport than what has already been done via TUF antics, the Diaz brothers, or Dana White tirades. Make no mistake: Nobody, not even Brock Lesnar, can be bad for MMA if they perform and draw the way that Lesnar does. Was Tito Ortiz bad for MMA when his shtick was carrying the UFC hype machine? The guy was a jackass, sure. But he drew. And more eyes felt the warm glow of UFC pay-per-views just to see what would happen to the punk you loved to hate so much.
I say let Brock be Brock. I genuinely don’t care. Maybe its the apathetic nihilist in me, but come on, do you really care that much about what Brock Lesnar says in his post-fight soliloquies? I know I know, this is MMA and the WWE theatrics should be left to McMahon and company, I concede that such remains a legitimate argument. However on the flip side, if a man chooses to play the heel yet continues to compete at the highest level of the sport without becoming too much of a prima donna, I simply do not see the harm.
I don’t work for Budweiser, I don’t care if Frank Mir’s feelings were hurt regarding the eloquent horseshoe comment, and from what I can tell Lesnar’s wife was none too upset at the mention of her champ “getting on top of her” all neander-style. “I beat man, have good drink, take woman to cave.” It’s primitive, but it’s also fairly accurate in Brock Lesnar’s case. The man ain’t a neurosurgeon, people. He’s an alpha-male, whether he knows what the term means or not.
Here’s a thought, or conspiracy theory rather, so take it for what you will. But I believe there remains an antiquated concept of what mixed martial arts should be that is driving at least some of the latest Lesnar criticism. UFC 1 saw Royce Gracie prove that technique schools size and strength, and it was a glorious thing to revel in.
Those who witnessed the victorious undersized Brazilian could rejoice knowing that the stereotypical schoolyard bully no longer posed the same threat. That dopey bastard would have no idea how to fend off a simple arm bar. It would almost be too easy. Admittedly, when my MMA addiction first began to take root I was highly taken in by the concept of someone my size (very short and scrawny at the time) being able to force a physically imposing jerk to tap out from some crazy leg lock that I pulled out of nowhere. Sucka.
Ninety-nine UFC’s later; Brock Lesnar comes along and momentarily disproves the core principle of modern mixed martial arts, which early UFC events had largely created. This time the less polished, overpowering, grunting gorilla, who could certainly never maneuver his legs for a proper gogoplata, dominates the smarter, sharper technician. Darwin would not be proud.
And so, some of us freak out feeling as if we have just entered the plutonium fueled DeLorean back to the heydays of Frye, Coleman or Randleman- guys who only made a buck because they were bigger and stronger (and juiced.) Uncivilized, unsophisticated, testosterone-driven men who were all too happy to ground and pound like a pack of wild cro-mags unaware of any other weapons in the MMA arsenal.
But I say fear not to those clinging to fighters like Emelianenko, Machida, Penn and A. Silva. There are plenty of these crafty devils to go around, and when their time has passed others will spawn. Brock Lesnar on the other hand is a mere genetic anomaly. We cannot copy and paste more of them, not that the government wouldn’t try if they thought it possible.
So let’s all take a step back for a second. Let’s relax. Let’s appreciate that the UFC heavyweight division has a champion who creates compelling match ups across the board. Let us wait another fight or two to see if Brock Lesnar’s “era” has truly begun before we start burning down jiujitsu schools and dead lifting until nauseous. Let us admit without inducing a panic attack that even in 2009, a big oaf with limited technique can rely heavily on his physical gifts to destroy decorated black belts.
It’s not the end of the world. It’s just a jerk who can hit hard and smother people. He happens to come from professional wrestling, and you can tell. But the man is no more harmful to mixed martial arts than any other larger-than-life athlete was to their respective sport. Brock Lesnar’s rise, while controversial, only threatens those who fear change, which is painfully ironic since evolution is precisely what makes MMA the beloved, complex animal that it is. Now can we please talk about Georges St. Pierre for a minute? Alright, next time.