And now, here's my first real Fan Post. It's the most lowly anticipated event of the year. Welcome to Finiantober.
I am King of the Brock Haters. I hate him personally. I think he's an arrogant jackass, the embodiment of every negative jock stereotype, and I don't buy for a second the idea that he was changed by the adversity he recently faced. I hate him so much that I won't even buy UFC 121 just because he is on the card. Even the possibility of seeing him lose isn't enough to make me watch him. I bought UFC 116, but the man disgusts me so much that it's impossible for me to enjoy a show he is involved in. At the end of the night I felt like I had wasted $45 and three hours of my life. I decided I would never pay another cent for any card he was on. I bought the URL www.brocklesnarisafraud.com, but I haven't decided what to do with it yet.
When I got the UFC 100 set [EDIT: I mean the UFC 100 "Greatest Matches" boxed set, which includes Mir's defeat of Lesnar, not the DVD of the 100th UFC.] I watched Mir submit him over and over. If Velasquez beats him, I will pre-order the DVD and do the same thing. If I could be guaranteed that Lesnar would lose at 121, I would gladly pay double for the PPV. Ok, so the point is that I really, really hate Brock Lesnar. I do not find him entertaining, respectable, or amusing. I just hate his rotten, stinking guts.
I do not think Brock Lesnar is a terrible fighter. He is a good fighter. I don't think he deserves to be ranked ahead of Fedor or Werdum, or considered the greatest anything, but he is obviously a great athlete and he has improved his skills a great deal since he entered the sport. I do not buy the argument that "all he does is lie on top of people" or "all he does is throw those weak punches on the ground." First of all, that is not all he does, and second, if he wins the match then he did enough to win. We know from the entire history of MMA that size and power are not enough. Lesnar was an elite athlete before Dana White adopted him and he has the potential to be great. Unfortunately, as I am going to argue below, we will not get the chance to find out if he can be great or not.
I don't care that Lesnar was a pro wrestler. I love pro wrestling, even though the current WWE product is almost unwatchable. Ken Shamrock was a pro wrestler. Kazushi Sakuraba was a pro wrestler. Dan Severn was a pro wrestler. Josh Barnett is a pro wrestler. Without pro wrestling there would be no Shooto, Pancrase, RINGS, or Pride. If there were no pro wrestling, there might not be MMA as we know it. A pro wrestler's body takes way more abuse than an MMA fighter's body, because there is no athletic commission keeping them out of the ring when they are injured, and they perform way more than three or four times a year.
I don't know if Lesnar uses PEDs. I think he is a naturally big guy, and size doesn't tell you if someone is using anyway. GSP could be using. Fedor could be using. Jose Aldo could be using. We really have no idea who is using PEDs, and we won't know who is using PEDs until a testing program designed to actually catch people using PEDs is put in place.
It's not Brock Lesnar's fault that he is a fraudulent champion. If someone offers you a bunch of money to fight in a title match you haven't earned, you're probably going to take it. My position is that Lesnar is a fraudulent champion because there is a long-standing, well established process by which one becomes a top contender and then a champion, and it is that process, as much as the actual title victory, that makes a champion legitimate. Lesnar was allowed and encouraged to bypass that process.
We are all familiar with the normal process of becoming a legitimate champion. A fighter starts out, as an amateur or a pro, fighting in smaller promotions. He beats progressively stronger opponents. Somewhere along the line, in the case of a UFC champion, he gets a contract with the UFC. He continues to beat progressively stronger opponents, until the three top fighters in his weight division are the champion, himself, and one other guy. He fights and beats the other guy. Then he beats the champion. That is how a legitimate champion is made.
A lot of things can happen during this years long process. The fighter can suffer an injury that ends or postpones his progress. The fighter can run into personal issues, with his family for example, that make it harder to for him to focus and succeed. The fighter can have financial problems that make it impossible for him to train full time or that cause distractions. This is part of the struggle of becoming champion, and it is part of a being a legitimate champion.
Lesnar did not have to take any of these risks. The UFC, realizing Lesnar could make them a bunch of money, made sure of that. He got a title shot after three matches, which included a loss and a victory over two fighters that no one thought were the top contenders for the heavyweight title. His path to a title shot was as easy as Dana White could make it. For this reason, although he beat Couture and has defended the title successfully, he will never be a legitimate champion.
The fact is that a lot of unexpected things happen in MMA, and the skill level of the average fighter is much higher than it was ten or fifteen years ago. There are a lot of lesser known fighters who, if they were randomly inserted into a championship match, would have a good chance to win. This is why we have the filtering process I described earlier. It's one thing to randomly win a big match, but another to randomly succeed over a period of years with low pay and no idea if you will ever make it. So I don't believe that Lesnar's victory over Couture proves that he deserved the title shot. As for his subsequent victories over Mir and Carwin, they are legitimate victories as well, but they do not retroactively legitimate Lesnar's shot at the title. In other words, if he defends the title ten times and then retires, he will still not be a legitimate champion. The only thing he could do to acquire legitimacy is drop the title and start over at the bottom like everyone else.
It's true that there have been other fighters who received early title shots. GSP challenged Hughes in just his third UFC match, but he was 7-0 at the time, not 2-1. B.J. Penn got to fight for the title in his fourth UFC match, when he was 3-0. Luckily, both men lost these matches so it did not become an issue, and more importantly, they did not receive these title shots based on their success as a performance artist. But consider that Lyoto Machida was 15-0 when he fought Rashad Evans, and some people thought that title shot was premature. It is my understanding that when Fedor Emelianenko challenged Big Nog for the Pride heavyweight title, some in the MMA community thought it was premature. At that time Fedor was 13-1 and had fought two matches in Pride, including -- oddly enough -- a victory over Heath Herring in his last match before winning the title.
The important thing here is that the UFC's handling of Lesnar has been close to unique. He was given a title shot when he was 2-1, while other fighters with much more actual achievement have had the appropriateness of their title shots questioned. More signfiicant is the reason why Lesnar was given this title shot. It was not justified, as it was in the case of GSP, Penn, Machida, and Emelianenko, on the basis of his assumed potential as a fighter, or his accomplishments in another combat sport (you can argue that White coddled Lesnar on the basis of his success in folkstyle wrestling, but I'm not buying it). Lesnar was pushed ahead of every other contender in the division solely because he was famous and could bring new fans and dollars to the UFC.
In my view, this is just wrong. The integrity of the sport depends upon matches being made based solely on the achievements of the fighters, never on the potential profits of the UFC. As Bill James once said about baseball, the fact that baseball is "basically a business" to the team owners does not mean that baseball actually is basically a business. Maybe MMA is a business to Dana White, but to me it is a sport that I love and support. Maybe he thinks that whatever is good for him is good for the sport and for the fans, but why would this be the case?
The UFC is making a ton of money. It is making enough money that if it made a bit less money in order to preserve the integrity of the sport, it would still be making a hell of a lot of money. Why should I care if the UFC maximizes its potential earnings, if it means watching Dana White become more and more influential by treating MMA as his personal property? MMA does not need the UFC, and it does not need White or the Fertittas. A lot of rich people could have bought the UFC once the original owners had done most of the work of establishing and legitimizing the sport, and then thrown a bunch of money at it and made a couple of lucky decisions.
I think that Brock Lesnar represents the gradual transformation of MMA into pro wrestling, and Dana White is the man who will make that happen. This is just the most obvious example of White (and probably Joe Silva) making decisions in order to make more money and attract more fans. Any promoter needs to make some money and attract some fans, but there must be a balance between that and the long term health of the sport as a whole. "Profitable for the UFC" is not equivalent to "good for MMA over the long term." Often those two things will overlap, but as White continues to be rewarded for his mishandling of Lesnar, they will overlap less and less. New fans whose money encourages Dana White to grant special privileges to undeserving fighters are not good for MMA. They are bad for MMA, because promoting celebrity over achievement is an easy way for Dana White to pad his wallet, and fans of this sort just bring us more and more fans of this sort and encourage further wallet padding from White. Sooner or later, he will realize that he could make even more money if he just picked the winners himself.
What we are seeing now is the worst case scenario. Lesnar was not only granted matches he didn't deserve, but he managed to win those matches. Strikeforce has caught on and promoted Bobby Lashley and Herschel Walker illegitimately. Serious MMA fans have come to accept Lesnar and now try to justify what White has done. But I think that MMA is only as legitimate as its champions. The championships give structure and direction to the sport. They are the goal of the entire process of culling fighters until only one is left. Every fighter wants to be the best, and they need to know, and the fans need to know, that they will get the opportunities they earn. If White is going to hand out title shots on the basis of anything but actual achievement in the cage, he is going to delegitimize the championships and turn MMA into a joke. The end result will be the UFC chugging along with "shoot style" matches while smaller, still legitimate promotions lose money on their boring old athletic competitions.
The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Bloody Elbow readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloody Elbow editors or staff.