Former WWE Champion Brock Lesnar won the UFC Heavyweight Title Saturday night in Las Vegas with a 2nd round TKO over UFC legend Randy Couture. Perhaps now MMA purists will acknowledge Lesnar's athletic abilities and not hold his tenure in the entertainment world of the WWE against him. But somehow I doubt it....at least not for now.
The pro wrestling bias has never been more prominently displayed than by what I perceive to be a vocal minority of MMA fans against Lesnar simply because he signed with the WWE after an outstanding amateur wrestling career that was topped off by winning a NCAA Heavyweight Title in 2000 after finishing 2nd in the NCAA's in 1999 while wrestling for the University of Minnesota.
When my fellow WWE officials first saw Lesnar, it did not take a Mensa member to ascertain what an amazing physical specimen that he was. As the head of the WWE Talent Relations department at that time and ultimately responsible for finding, signing, and monitoring the training of future WWE stars, signing Brock was a no brainer. He flourished in the Louisville based training camp and was one of the great amateurs like Danny Hodge and Jack Brisco to make a virtual seamless transition from the amateur world of wrestling, the world's oldest recognized sport, to the world of entertainment/show biz featuring great athletes aka pro wrestling.
Brock's journey to the main roster in the WWE wasn't without its bumps in the road but collectively we got through them and Lesnar progressed in rapid fashion to the main talent roster of the WWE. Lesnar was earning 7 figures faster than any rookie I ever signed in my role in the talent department in the WWE and that includes such stars as Dwayne 'The Rock" Johnson and Kurt Angle.
Unfortunately Brock hated the amount of travel that it took to be a main event star in the WWE and earn the type of money that came with his "spot." He left the WWE primarily due to travel issues and embarked on another adventure as Brock tried to earn a roster spot with the NFL's Minnesota Vikings.
When the NFL did not work out, Brock turned back to his long time roots and parlayed his grappling skills and amazing athletic gifts by signing with the UFC. Lesnar's name identity that he developed globally with the WWE made Brock marketable from day one but it also came with a pre-conditioned identity. Lesnar was a former pro wrestler and that stigma made the South Dakota farm boy a marked man from day one by many UFC fans.
UFC promoters discovered what many successful pro wrestling promoters had known for years and that is their fan base would pay big money to see someone get their ass beat if that individual represented what the majority of the fan base disliked which could come in a variety of incarnations. In the annals of pro wrestling, that could mean an evil "German", a diabolical "Japanese", a menacing "Masked Man", or a flamboyant "Loud Mouth" among many personas.
Lesnar was none of these but he did have the "distasteful" pro wrestling stigma attached to him that will be a part of his UFC bio until the day he retires. Never mind that the guy was a superb amateur wrestler long before his short albeit successful stint in the WWE. "Dammit the guy was one of those pro 'rasslers and those guys have no business in any form of MMA." Wrong.
Simply being billed as a former WWE Champion was enough to make some MMA fans "hate" the 6'3"-275 pounder from day one. By the boos I heard Saturday night on PPV, many UFC hardcore's still despise Lesnar and perhaps even more so now that Lesnar is "their" heavyweight champion and more specifically because Brock defeated "Captain America", the beloved, and deservedly respected, Randy Couture in such a dominating, no questions asked fashion. BTW Couture is a class act and a credit to the UFC. Hopefully, Couture will go down in weight and continue to fight as one can't help but love his passion and warrior spirit.
However, now the UFC can promote Lesnar vs. virtually any qualified, MMA born and bred heavyweight they choose and the fans will be on board in the hopes of seeing Brock humbled and, more pointedly, beaten to a pulp.
The same pro wrestling methodology that has been around for decades is now exactly what MMA hardcore fans are buying into.
Of course, according to some of the MMA vocal minority, I, being a proud member of the pro wrestling community for many years, have no business writing about a sport of which I am a huge fan on a website that our company owns. Shame on me.
The pro wrestling bias isn't new nor is it going away any time soon. Some former wrestlers have reluctantly had to distance themselves from the genre to become successful in other fields. That's not because these individuals don't respect the fans or the wrestling business but it's because the decision makers of their new endeavors don't want to be associated with the wrestling biz.
Brock Lesnar will likely never earn the full respect of the die hard, MMA, hard core fans. That's their loss. Lesnar is not without his faults, the same as any other human, but no one with a modicum of common sense can deny Brock's God given athletic gifts and the fact that because of his upbringing and his amateur wrestling background that Lesnar has a work ethic, and an ego, that will drive him to be the best in his field.
I have seen this first hand but of course my opinion, being that of a 'rasslin announcer, means little.
Brock Lesnar was "The Next Big Thing" at one time in the WWE and he is definitely "The Next Big Thing" today in the UFC. I expect Lesnar to continue to improve his MMA skills with his burning desire to be the best in his field. The self proclaimed purists of the MMA world can like it or not but for sure they will keep buying tickets and pay per views to see one of their own destroy Lesnar.