By Zach Arnold
Predictably, UFC 77 produced some Maalox moments for UFC President Dana White. Rich Franklin was beaten by UFC Middleweight Anderson Silva (again) in spectacular fashion -- and in Franklin's home town of Cincinnati. Tim Sylvia, UFC's most hated fighter, had little trouble in earning a methodical win over smallish heavyweight fighter Brandon Vera. Sylvia, who was dispatched last March in Columbus by Randy Couture, now finds himself in the catbird's seat as a #1 challenger for the soon-to-be-vacant UFC Heavyweight Title.
Both of the losses by Franklin and Vera hurt UFC's future matchmaking.
At US Bank Arena on Saturday night, the promotion announced that Brock Lesnar had signed a contract to fight as a heavyweight in the UFC. Lesnar cut a promo on the house microphone stating that he's "ready for war." For several months, there were rumors that Lesnar had been in negotiations with UFC to sign with the organization. The speculation picked up steam after Lesnar destroyed Kim Min-Soo at the K-1 Dynamite June 2nd event at the LA Memorial Coliseum.
The signing of Lesnar by UFC certainly became much more important with the recent departure of a disgruntled Randy Couture, who cited money and not being able to fight PRIDE Heavyweight champion Fedor Emelianenko as the reasons he wanted out from the company.
The recent dossier on Brock Lesnar's career
The story of Brock Lesnar's entire professional fighting career (in pro-wrestling and MMA) is that he has all the tools to be a top 'ace' to carry a company. Those skills are so alluring that promoter fall over themselves to sign him up. However, Lesnar has a history of being impulsive with career decisions. It's not a very positive track record.
Lesnar was WWE champion in 2004 and decided that he was going to leave the company to pursue a career in the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings. The move stunned a lot of insiders and resulted in a nasty exodus from the company. Lesnar and Bill Goldberg had one of wrestling's most infamous abominations when the two wrestlers (who were both leaving the organization after WrestleMania 20) faced each other at Madison Square Garden. The New York fans crapped on both men and there was no way possible for the match to be salvaged. Lesnar quit WWE while still remaining under a long-term contract.
The Minnesota Vikings were enamored with Lesnar's raw talent and skills, just like WWE was. Lesnar tried out for the team but eventually quit his dreams of playing professional football. It was another road that Lesnar traveled down and left.
After his dreams of becoming a football player vanished, Lesnar tried to get back into professional wrestling. He appeared at a New Japan Pro-Wrestling show as a guest and it became very clear that Antonio Inoki was interested in bringing Lesnar to the company. Lesnar and WWE engaged in a bitter court battle that resulted in a settlement which allowed Brock to wrestle for New Japan Pro-Wrestling.
Lesnar was booked for a three-way IWGP title match on 10/8/2005 against Masa Chono & Kazuyuki Fujita at the Tokyo Dome. The event drew a very poor house and Lesnar squashed both men in under 10 minutes to win the title belt. Lesnar would continue to defend the title against other New Japan challengers, but his Japanese matches were relatively cookie-cutter in design (high-profile squashes). Lesnar's promos on TV-Asahi were lackluster and it was clear that Lesnar was strictly business when he would fly in the day before a big match and then fly out of the country afterwards. The Lesnar Experiment in New Japan collapsed last year when he was scheduled to defend (and perhaps lose) the IWGP title against young star Hiroshi Tanahashi. However, the company stated that Lesnar had "visa trouble" and couldn't appear for his scheduled title shot in Sapporo. Tanahashi would go on to win a one-night tournament, but Lesnar never physically returned the actual IWGP title belt. He never returned to the company to wrestle again and his employers were furious.
After the New Japan debacle, Lesnar set his sights on MMA. He signed a one-fight deal with K-1 and would headline the promotion's event at the LA Coliseum on June 2nd of this year. The event was a major disaster in terms of business and Lesnar had relatively little trouble in squashing last-minute replacement Kim Min-Soo. Lesnar's impressive win once again opened up new doors for him in the fight game, as his raw talent and skills became extremely attractive to fight promoters (including UFC).
With UFC's signing of Brock Lesnar, Lesnar will have yet another chance to redeem himself in the fight game. He became a star in WWE but never reached his full potential. He left for the NFL and couldn't make it with the Minnesota Vikings. He tried to get back into wrestling via New Japan Pro-Wrestling and he burned a lot of bridges in Japan. Will Lesnar manage to build a long-term career and relationship with UFC or will history once again repeat itself and result in a failed short-term MMA experiment for the man that was once labeled "The Next Big Thing"?
The pros and the cons of Brock Lesnar working in UFC
On the plus side...
Talent and raw ability. There is no question that Lesnar is a physical freak of nature. He has enormous size and strength. Expect him to be by far the most physical fighter that UFC has seen in quite a long time.
Coaching. Lesnar has trained with Pat Miletich and Miletich has said many good things about him. If Lesnar continues his training routine with Miletich, there is no question that Lesnar can be a dominant athlete with great coaching and cornering during fights.
On the negative side...
Generally not a very good inverview. If UFC is expecting Lesnar to be a great talker like Kurt Angle, forget about it. Lesnar's physical tools are very marketable, but his mouth is not always so.
A terrible track record as far as business decisions. See the case made up above.
Overestimating his marketability. Sure, Lesnar was a star in WWE. That was approximately four years ago. There is a tendency for promoters to fall in love with Lesnar and think that he has automatic marketability. That's not the case here. If UFC expects Lesnar to sell several thousand tickets based on his name value alone for a big fight, think again.
The cross-over appeal. Lesnar's cross-over appeal in the American marketplace is from pro-wrestling fans and no one else. Lesnar never gained major popularity in any other industry other than WWE. Expecting the casual sports fan to immediately recognize Lesnar is not something that should be done.
Lack of experience. With Couture gone, UFC is going to relying heavily on a perceived big-name star who has a grand total of one professional fight to his name. It doesn't say a lot of good things about the shrinking depth of UFC's Heavyweight division.