After the main event and post-fight interview, I started wondering if a point might be reached where Brock Lesnar becomes more of a liability than an asset to the UFC. I know the immediate reaction of a lot of people to this will be to point to the commercial success he has been and say that any such conjecture is total nonsense. But there are a number of reasons why I do not think the notion can be totally dismissed.
Maverick behaviour towards sponsors –A significant part of the UFC’s revenue is generated from their commercial tie-ins. When Lesnar made the quip about Coors it indicated to some degree a disregard for this relationship. As many people have pointed out here this seemed to be the biggest transgression by far in Dana White’s eyes.
Perceived bad sportsmanship – Dana White and the UFC have made much of the fact that MMA, as they do it, is a sport and that the things associated with sport such as sportsmanship, discipline, training and personal improvement are all present. Again, as others have pointed out, this image is at least to a degree at odds with the post-fight interview. Personally, I am somewhat ambivalent because as a life-long boxing fan I have come to accept that combat sports at their optimal entail two highly trained athletes who go out to damage each other. We can dress it up whatever way we want but we are attracted to violence. Of course, we do not want to see anyone get hurt but it is always possible. Someone wrote on here that Brock Lesnar on Saturday night was the first thing on television that had scared them since they were a child, I know that exaggeration was being used to make a point but I understand what they meant. I really did think for a second that he was going to attack Mir again. I cannot condemn Lesnar because he did not give us the post-fight hug and make-up that we all wanted to see. I think on some level we want to see that because it helps us draw back from the reality of what it is we enjoy. I mean thrash talk is a lot less damaging to your health than ground and pound. But I think some of the mainstream audience who may have been watching for the first time will have found Lesnar’s continuing aggression after the final bell uncomfortable viewing.
Loose cannon – Dana White loves to micro-manage, he admits that himself. Brock Lesnar, I believe, has a strong independent streak. I know that a lot of people feel his antics at interviews and news conferences is a put-on job but I think he really struggles with the yoke of authority. Forgetting about whether the UFC are too controlling or just a well-run machine, the point is that there is friction there. Vince McMahon may have had issues with Lesnar but at least he had the luxury of being able to write a new storyline and have Lesnar beaten. White does not have that luxury and if a point is reached where Lesnar cannot work well within the confines of what White dictates then it could get messy. I genuinely believe that some of the post-fight behaviour were as much a response to things like the pre-fight news conference incident as anything else (I know that’s pure conjecture on my part). The look on White’s face just before he put the belt on Lesnar was funny, he looked taken aback almost as if he was not sure about the unpredictability of his heavyweight champion.
Self sufficient brand – the final reason I think Lesnar may be difficult for the UFC is probably the largest problem for the organisation, greater even that the sponsorship problem. Lesnar more than any other missed martial artist is a brand which exists quite independently from the UFC. Whereas the Couture breakaway could be managed because Randy could never gain enough traction with the media and public to make the risks of breaking away worthwhile, Lesnar is another proposition altogether. If he just becomes bigger and bigger and more synonymous with being the best mixed martial artist in the world and if the relationship were to deteriorate, he might be able to successfully defect. The UFC was growing before he came along and while he has probably helped speed up its growth (or maintain the fast growth for longer than would otherwise have been the case), the cost could be high.
I know this is all extreme conjecture and would be the first to admit that the more likely scenario is that Lesnar and the UFC continue to enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship, however, I do think it could potentially go awry.
This last comment is more for humour than anything else but wouldn’t it be ironic if White found he had created a huge problem, needed someone to defeat Lesnar to alleviate it and all candidates within their roster had tried and failed. Maybe he would look outside. Just to be clear though as much as I wish he could beat Lesnar after Saturday I would make him an underdog.