I had the pleasure of watching UFC 141 with some friends, some of whom are only occasional MMA fans. These are the ones who only come out when GSP or Brock Lesnar are on a card. After watching Lesnar crumple like a doll and Overeem basically stealing his shine, one of my friends asked me how would Lesnar be remembered by MMA fans as a whole. Which got me to thinking, despite only having 7 fights in the Octagon, what would Lesnar be most remembered for?
1. Being the highest selling PPV draw in the history of the company.
This one is going to hurt the UFC in the short term (as everyone has been so quick to point out). No one (aside from GSP) can draw them like the big man from Minnesota. Look at the numbers from each of his fights in the Octagon and where they rank on the company's all time buy list.
UFC 81 vs Frank Mir - 600,000 buys (21st all time)
UFC 87 vs Heath Herring - 625,000 buys (18th all time)
UFC 91 vs Randy Couture for the UFC HW championship - 920,000 buys (8th all time)
UFC 100 vs Frank Mir - 1,500,000 buys (1st all time)
UFC 116 vs Shane Carwin - 1,116,000 buys (2nd all time)
UFC 121 vs Cain Velasquez - 1,050,000 buys (tied for 3rd all time)
UFC 141 vs Alistair Overeem - ???
So essentially, even right from the jump, the man drew in fans like few MMA fighters ever could. Being an established star in WWE brought over a lot of cross appeal to those fans, interested to see how Brock would do when in a real fight. This maybe where the UFC will hurt the most with his retirement. Unless the cross over Brock fans became Overeem fans last night, expect a good sized drop off in PPV buys.
2. No one did more with less
Wresting is arguably the premier skill set to come into MMA with, and few had a more accomplished NCAA wrestling career than Brock Lesnar. His freakish size and considerable wrestling credentials brought him at least some legitimacy when he began his MMA career. Aside from his debut fight in K-1 against Min-Soo Kim, Lesnar was thrown into the deep end right away. As opposed to letting the man develop a skill set, the UFC wanted to see what he was made of. With a rudimentary striking game, Lesnar defied the model for what should compose a modern day MMA fighter. People thought the days of a fighter being talented in only 1 skill set were dead, that the days of Mark Coleman and Royce Gracie were done. Lesnar proved otherwise. He made it to the highest levels with essentially a good double leg, a suffocating top game and good ground and pound. He essentially was learning on the fly as he was challenging for the UFC Heavyweight championship. No one else in modern MMA has been able to do that. Even high level wrestlers like Cain Velasquez, Daniel Cormier, and Phil Davis have all started their careers slowly as they began adding skills to become more well rounded. Lesnar succeeded where maybe he shouldn't have.
3. He is one of only three men to ever defend the UFC Heavyweight title more than once.
Randy Couture, Tim Sylvia, Brock Lesnar. These three men are the only fighters in UFC to defend the HW title more than once. That alone speaks volumes to the man's legacy. There are some big bad dudes in the Heavyweight division, and it is seemingly impossible for a fighter (aside from Fedor Emelianenko) to stay on top for an extended period of time. But despite not liking to get hit, or not having crisp striking, or a diverse attack, Lesnar managed to stay on top.
4. He has the most deceiving record in MMA history.
If someone were to glance quickly on the Sherdog fight finder, and saw a career record of 5 - 3, they would assume the fighter was a middling talent and did not put together a successful career. Obviously that was not the case with Brock. Out of his 8 career fights, 7 of them came against extremely high level competition. 2 fights with a former champion in Frank Mir, a fringe top 10 HW in Heath Herring, a legend and UFC Hall of Famer in Randy Couture, a top 5 heavyweight and fellow monster Shane Carwin, another top 3 heavyweight in Cain Velasquez and then Alistair Overeem. I cannot think of a single fighter who has ever gone through that kind of lineup in such a short career. The man should lock up his legacy with that run alone.
5. He absolutely beat the brakes off of some of the toughest men on the planet.
Seriously, take a look at some of the damage guys have come out with after meeting Brock Lesnar in the cage.
In closing, I think Lesnar's legacy in this sport should be secure. Although it was unfortunately cut short by illness and inactivity, Lesnar will go down as one of the best heavyweights in the history of the UFC. You may not like his pro wrasslin background, his constantly cutting wrestling promos for every fight he was involved in, or many other things about the man. But you cannot deny his talents, and what he brought to the sport of MMA.