Nine years ago today, Brock Lesnar captured the UFC World Heavyweight Championship. Brock Lesnar in the UFC was seen as nothing more than a publicity stunt. Three fights in and he was getting a heavyweight title shot? Lesnar was just 1-1 in the UFC, after losing to Frank Mir via submission in his debut, and winning by unanimous decision against Heath Herring. It was Herring’s last fight with the UFC. Surely Randy Couture would make quick work of him.
Brock Lesnar was an NCAA heavyweight wrestling champion, graduating with a record of 106-5, but hadn’t wrestled since 2000. And Randy Couture was no slouch when it came to wrestling. He was a Pan American games Greco Roman champion and a two-time runner up in NCAA Division 1 wrestling. What many thought would be even more important, was a boxer in the United States Army, and was known for having outstanding dirty boxing skills. After all, Brock was a professional wrestler. What did he know about getting punched in the face? Couture would surely make quick work of Lesnar. Except Lesnar showed in the first round that maybe he wasn’t in over his head, as many had claimed. And then, in the second round, he took things one step further. He clearly hurt Couture seconds into the round.
Three minutes and seven seconds into round two, Brock Lesnar was declared the winner. Many critics were silenced. Of course, in retrospect, the result should have been a foregone conclusion. The fact of the matter is, Brock Lesnar is a freak of nature. Lesnar came into the match outweighing the champion by 65 pounds. This is especially ridiculous taking into account that Couture often fought at 205, and had to go up to take the title.
Still, there were MMA experts who said it was a fluke. Brock would go on to avenge his loss to Mir, and then defeat Shane Carwin. Eventually he was dethroned by Cain Velasquez. But Lesnar was UFC World Heavyweight Champion for just three weeks shy of two years. Again MMA experts would turn their noses up at that number, as during this time, Brock battled diverticulitis, resulting in the need for surgery to close a perforation in his intestine. That’s right. Brock Lesnar is such an intimidating beast of a man, that he scares the fecal matter out of his own intestine. Beyond that, Brock was the biggest draw in the UFC.
Brock Lesnar was one of the biggest stars in the industry during his initial WWE run. When he came back after his time with the UFC, Brock Lesnar was a completely untouchable monster. He used his position as a top draw to leverage an impressive part time contract that made him one of the highest paid wrestlers on the WWE’s roster. His appearances became a spectacle. Between his complete dominance of his opponents in the ring and how rarely he is on television, every time he is in the arena, the night feels special. Having Paul Heyman as his constant hype man certainly helps as well.
Lesnar’s success has also given wrestlers and MMA fighters hope for a successful career in both. CM Punk, Matt Riddle, Chuck O’Neil, Jack Gallagher, and plenty of others have all been inspired to make the jump. Whether they started out in the ring or the octagon doesn’t matter. More avenues to success can only be a good thing.
Brock Lesnar in the UFC wound up being a major win for all involved. The UFC got a larger-than-life villain that “true MMA fans” wanted to see get beat. They also got a boost from everyone just wanting to see him perform. Obviously, he received a major payday between his time with them and the new contract he was able to get from the WWE. The WWE got a legitimate star back in the ring, but more popular than ever before. If it weren’t for that fateful night nine years ago, the landscape of both combat sports and sports entertainment would look very different.