“I’m a fighter, and I believe that if somebody should be holding a belt in the UFC, it’s Brock Lesnar.” ~ Brock Lesnar speaking to MMAWeekly Radio in August 2007
It’s hard to believe that a fighter with a 5-3 record overall, much less a 4-3 record in the UFC, could have such a singular impact on a sport, but that’s exactly what Brock Lesnar did in the four short years he was involved in MMA.
On Friday night at UFC 141, following a loss to Alistair Overeem, Lesnar called it a career and said his MMA days are behind him.
It’s irrefutable, however, the impact that Lesnar had on MMA and the UFC specifically over his time with the promotion.
Following one fight that he had in K-1 to kick off his career, a victory over Min Soo Kim, Lesnar was already calling out UFC champions and awaiting a call from UFC president Dana White.
“I mean, you take Randy Couture for example, I mean he’s the heavyweight champion of the UFC, but he’s a small heavyweight. Let’s face it, Tim Sylvia was not a legitimate heavyweight champion,” Lesnar said in 2007.
“I enjoyed watching Randy beat the (expletive) out of Tim Sylvia. I enjoyed that. I mean take a look at this guy, Tim Sylvia, the guy’s feet, they’re damn near webbed. He looks like the Swamp Thing. The guy is a vulture. He can’t wrestle worth a crap. He’s got a jab and a little right hand. There’s no way. I’d double-leg his ass right through that cage so fast, and that would be the end of the fight. I’m tired. I’m tired of this. Brock Lesnar wants to fight somebody, somebody with credentials, and Tim Sylvia ain’t the guy.”
Strong words undoubtedly, but Lesnar was willing to back them up in the cage.
Shortly after that very interview, Lesnar signed a multi-fight deal with the UFC, and despite his lacking 1-0 record, he wasn’t asking for a pass or a warm-up fight. He wanted to face the best of the best on day one, and there was no other option for Lesnar.
“I just want to find out a name, get a face, and be able to watch his previous fights and then just start training everyday to dismantle my opponent,” Lesnar told MMAWeekly Radio in October 2007, just after signing with the UFC.
Following that statement, the UFC handed Lesnar a very dangerous opponent for his first foray in the Octagon. Former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir was the fighter chosen to greet Lesnar for his first fight with the promotion, no easy task for such an inexperienced mixed martial artist.
What resulted was a submission loss for Lesnar, but not without landing his own share of shots on Mir. If you looked at both fighters after it was over, most would assume it was Lesnar that came out on top, but a lesson was learned and he would come back stronger.
Following that fight, Lesnar dominated Pride and UFC veteran Heath Herring before being given a shot at legend and UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture. In only his fourth professional fight, Lesnar TKO’d a living legend and took home his first taste of UFC gold.
Lesnar further cemented his place in the sport when he returned at UFC 100 and tasted revenge as he bested Frank Mir to defend his heavyweight crown. The powerful fighter from Minnesota mauled and bludgeoned Mir to retain his belt, and at that moment it seemed Lesnar would be unstoppable.
Unfortunately for the giant heavyweight, it was a disease that would topple him, not another fighter in the cage. In October 2009, it was announced that Lesnar had contracted diverticulitis and would be sidelined for the immediate future.
At that point, it wasn’t even about MMA, it was literally about Lesnar fighting for his life.
A long medical battle followed, but the Lesnar that returned to the cage just didn’t seem like the same beast that entered it a couple of years earlier. While Lesnar did best Shane Carwin in his return bout in 2010, he then fell to Cain Velasquez to relinquish his heavyweight belt.
Another fight with diverticulitis followed in 2011 following a coaching stint on The Ultimate Fighter alongside Junior dos Santos. A few months later, after recovering, he faced his final battle in the cage against Alistair Overeem.
Lesnar may retire with a 5-3 record, but his legacy in the world of MMA will be cemented forever.
As a former pro wrestler with the WWE, Lesnar brought a huge amount of fans with him, eyeballs that may have never even given the UFC a chance if not for following the massive heavyweight after his career in sports entertainment ended.
The pay-per-view sales alone justify Lesnar as one of the most popular and watched fighters to ever enter the sport of MMA.
When he grabbed the microphone and spoke, there was always a little pro wrestling flavor thrown in, but it was something that MMA fans could embrace. Whether they loved him or hated him, Brock Lesnar was somebody everybody wanted to see compete.
There’s also no denying that Lesnar faced the absolute best of the best from his first day in the UFC to the last time he stepped out of Octagon.
Once upon a time in the WWE, Lesnar was nicknamed “the next big thing.” Just days after his retirement from the UFC, Lesnar may have been the biggest thing this sport has ever seen.