by Jeff Cain – MMAWeekly.com
When former Division I collegiate wrestling heavyweight champion and World Wrestling Entertainment superstar Brock Lesnar made the decision to compete in mixed martial arts, he set lofty goals. After his debut win over Min Soo Kim in K-1, Lesnar set his sights on the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
“I’m a fighter, and I believe that if somebody should be holding a belt in the UFC, it’s Brock Lesnar,” the 31-year-old wrestler told MMAWeekly.com in August of 2007.
Lesnar debuted in the UFC against former heavyweight titleholder Frank Mir at UFC 81 and lost via kneebar in a fight he was dominating. “I’ve been in front of a lot of crowds, but the one thing I hadn’t been in was the Octagon and fighting a former champion,” commented Lesnar. “I put a lot of pressure on myself that first fight. I had more pressure on my first fight I think than I did this fight.”
UFC president Dana White had reservations about bringing Lesnar into the UFC. “When Brock said he wanted to fight in the UFC, I told him, ‘this isn’t the place to learn how to fight. You should fight in smaller shows,’” White told the media during the UFC 87 post-fight press conference. “He wanted to come here and test himself against the best.”
After Lesnar’s performance against Heath Herring at the Target Center in Minneapolis, White admitted something he rarely admits. “I’ll be honest, I didn’t think he could come in here with no fights and compete at this level. He proved me wrong. He looked unbelievable… I’m very impressed and I think everyone else is too.”
Following his first win in the UFC, Lesnar told the media, “I got really excited after I won. And I have every right to be. I came off a loss. And it was tough. I don’t like to lose. And it feels good.”
Lesnar dropped Herring early in the first round with a right hand. Questioned if he’s been working on his striking, he answered, “I’ve been working on everything, not just the right hand. It’s one of those things where we broke Heath Herring down. And the advantage we had in our camp was Heath didn’t have any footage on me and we had everything on him. He was expecting me to shoot on him and I faked a shot, faked a jab, and came with the right hand and put it where I needed to put it.”
Following his impressive victory some criticized Lesnar for his post-fight antics, comparing it to his pro wrestling days. “That was just me. I was excited,” stated the heavyweight fighter. “That was for Heath’s camp because on the way out to the Octagon there was some things said before the fight. And I had the last laugh and the last words to say. That’s all that matters to me.
“I may have went a little overboard,” he added. “But I was having fun. You know? I like where I’m at and if I offended anybody, I’m sorry. Ah… not really.”
With only three MMA fights, Lesnar hasn’t shed that stigma of being a former professional wrestler despite the fact that several mixed martial artists also participate in pro wrestling matches in Japan.
“First and foremost, I’m an amateur wrestler,” stated Lesnar. “I was in the entertainment business for four and a half years. I didn’t forget who I was nor will I ever forget. I started wrestling when I was five years old. Nobody gave me anything in my entire life. I’ve had to fight for every damn thing that I’ve got and I’m proud of it. I’m proud to be here.”
Lesnar admitted that two years ago he was at a crossroads in his career and didn’t know what direction he’d end up going. But the 280-pound heavyweight has found a place in the UFC. “I feel at home here. People bounce around from job to job their whole lives and never find a home. I feel like this is where I belong.”
White appears to agree, “(Heath Herring’s) fought the best fighters in the world. He got dominated… dominated by Brock Lesnar. Brock Lesnar is a mixed martial artist, no doubt about it.”