Frank Mir gets why Brock Lesnar is UFC heavyweight champion. Lesnar is big, strong, but most of all, marketable.
In a teleconference for “The Ultimate Fighter” season eight finale that takes place this Saturday, Mir admitted that the heavyweight landscape had shifted dramatically, but not surprisingly.
“Our sport is twofold: one is your performance in the ring, second is the draw you cause with ticket sales and pay per view buys,” he said. “It’s a combination of those two that enable the ‘ranking system’ if you really want to put a ranking system, of who gets title shots and who doesn’t. For example, Cain Velasquez, (a) phenomenal heavyweight fighter, but very few people are talking about him. He’s very formidable in the ring; outside the ring, I don’t know how many tickets he sells.
“But then you have Brock Lesnar, who has phenomenal fan appeal sells tons of tickets. He was 1-1 in the UFC, and he gets a title shot.”
Mir has been fighting in the Octagon since 2001, and has gotten used to the breaks. The organization’s politics still grate with his vision of the fighter as martial artist, but he’s learned to let it go.
“I could point to Jon Fitch who was 8-0 before he got a title shot,” he said. “Is that right? No, but guess what, this isn’t like an Olympic sport where (it’s) number one guy versus number two guy. It’s like boxing; it has that entertainment value to where if no one wants to see you fight, you can be 30-0 and it won’t matter. No one cares.”
To Mir, Lesnar’s title grab was a mixture of business and probability. Lesnar got there because of his stature, but won the title because of the unpredictable nature of the sport. If anything, the victory reinforced his misgivings about the way marketing decides who fights who.
“With Brock getting that first shot at Randy, did I think that was acceptable?” Mir asked. “No, I think people have to work their way up a little bit more, but that’s just me as a fighter. And I realized that’s why I think people need to work their way through the ranks, because anybody on any given day can get caught with a shot and lose. So now you have the champ who’s 2-1 in the UFC, and I think that’s what a lot of people are now upset about. But again, people buy tickets to see Brock Lesnar. That’s the way it is.”
Should Mir be victorious against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at UFC 92 on Dec. 27, he will get a chance to defeat the man he’s already beaten, and in the process, mark the biggest achievement in his career. So while Mir isn’t necessarily thrilled that Lesnar is the new champ, he’s just one step away from proving that art can overtake commerce.