Brock Lesnar is a polarising figure within Mixed Martial Arts. On the one hand he is a great fighter who is one of only three men to successfully defend the Heavyweight belt twice (Couture and Slyvia being the other two) but he is often derided by many for competing in the WWE and retired after only 8 fights (only 5 of which he won). This has led to him being overlooked by many as the great competitor that he is and was.
However, could he have been better? What if he had never joined the WWE or the NFL and gone straight into the world of MMA? This will be the first in a series of fanposts depicting an alternate history.
Imagine that it is now the year 2000 and that Brock Lesnar has just won his NCAA championship and is graduating from the University of Minnesota with a record of 106-5 over his 4 years of college. Now in our universe it is at this point that Brock Lesnar signed up with what was at this time known as the World Wrestling Federation or WWF (now known asthe WWE) and was sent to develop his skills as a Professional Wrestler at Ohio Valley Wrestling. After competing on several dark matches he was eventually promoted to competing on TV and after some years became Heavyweight Champion of the WWE, where he was a popular star for the company.
In 2006 he first announced his intent to fight for the K-1 Hero's promotion in MMA and in June 2007 he made Min Soo Kim tap due to strikes. After this he was signed to the UFC where he has since competed 7 times losing to Frank Mir by submission and being TKO'd by Alastair Overeem and Cain Velasquez. In this time he also beat Heath Herring, Randy Couture, Shane Carwin and avenged his loss to Frank MIr.
Throughout his career he relied very heavily on his wrestling and ground and pound to overwhelm the opposition. However one flaw that he was constantly criticised for was his inability to compete under the pressure of being hit. This happened in his fights with Carwin, Velasquez and Overeem in which on his feet (and at times on the ground) he was unable to handle being punched. Note that I do not suggest that Lesnar had a poor chin, in fact I would argue the opposite as he despite taking a lot of hard punches he has never been cleanly KO'd. However, he has never been able to take hard punches and continue fighting (with the exception of the Carwin fight in which Carwin gassed badly allowing Lesnar to easily win in the second round by submission).
Along the way Lesnar has also had to deal with Diverticullis which greatly hampered his career and along with Overeem's beating of him, was on e of the major reasons for Lesnar's eventual retirement. However, if Lesnar had started training MMA straight away what would have happened?
Suppose now that in 2000 after graduating from Minnesota University Brock Lesnar received an offer from either Pride FC or the UFC. At this point in time the UFC was still reeling from the effects of John Mccain's witch hunt against the UFC in which it had been branded a human cock-fight. In addition at this time there were many great stars in the HW division in both Pride and the UFC and at the time he would have been able to fight relatively easily in either of these organisations.
For now we will suggest that he began training in MMA at the end of 2000 and had his first UFC fight in 2001 at UFC 31 on May 4th 2001. During this time he was fresh off training as an amateur wrestler and it's likely that his wrestling would have been of a higher calibre than he was in 2007 due to the extreme layoff due to competing for the WWE. At this time, the UFC seeing the potential of their new young star decide to capitalise on it by having Lesnar facing Pete Williams and having Williams' original opponent Semmy Schilt fight Josh Barnett.
This was an excellent opportunity for Lesnar because Pete Williams although now surely on the decline still was well known for knocking out Mark Coleman out with a head kick some years earlier. In this fight Lesnar was able to do what Coleman had been unable to do years beforehand and take down Williams with his brute strength and ground and pound him until he was given the victory by TKO. This early victory gained him a lot of respect among those who at the time didn't know how effective Lesnar's wrestling would be.
Lesnar was then matched up with fellow newcomer Andrei Arlovski who pushed Lesnar very far, rocking him multiple times until in the 3rd and final round Lesnar took down Arlovski and battered him with some brutal ground and pound until Arlovski lay unconscious on the mat. In this fight however, Lesnar was tested by a talented striker and already saw the need to work on his standing striking defence and on how to take a punch.
He then decided to branch his training out and diversify his skills by training more heavily in boxing so that his stand up skills would be much improved. The results of this were immediately evident in his next fight in a title eliminator against Josh Barnett in which after being hit with some hard shots by Barnett, Lesnar was able to easily take down and thoroughly dominate Barnett on the ground before finishing Barnett standing with some brutal boxing.
At this point Lesnar was lined up to face Randy Couture in what was scheduled to be Lesnar's last fight on his current 4 fight contract. In the build up to this fight Lesnar constantly trash talked Couture vowing to end his reign and put a beating on him like nobody ever had. Now unlike in real life due to Lesnar's relative inexperience at this point he was no match for Couture, leading to a thorough beating being handed to him resulting in a clear cut unanimous decision being called against. So at this point in time Couture had successfully defended his belt for the 3rd straight time and Lesnar has been knocked back down the division.
Lesnar would now choose to take some time off of fighting professionally to care for his newly born daughter and to spend time with the rest of his family. During this time he would choose to continue to train however more locally than he had been before (this is the equivalent of his training at the DeathClutch Gym). After an absence of 4 months Lesnar decided that the time was right to return to MMA and after intense contract negotiation, Lesnar fought for the first time for Pride FC at Pride Shockwave fighting Gary Goodgridge in which Lesnar thoroughly outstruck and outgrappled Goodridge resulting in a round 1 TKO.
He would now continue to fight for Pride FC for the next few years gradually improving his stand up fighting as well as his ground fighting resulting in Lesnar reaching the point where Lesnar, Nogueira and Fedor were considered the three greatest fighters of Pride history. At this point in time Lesnar was seen to be almost unstoppable in that he possessed a granite chin excellent striking defence and still possessed all of the power and athleticism of his earlier amateur wrestling days.
After Fedor's double defeat of Nogueira, the fight of the decade was announced and Fedor vs Lesnar was set for Pride Final Conflict 2005 for the Pride FC Heavyweight belt. In an incredible back and forth fight of the year worthy battle, in which both men were pushed to their very limits and with both being very close the finishing the fight (Fedor with his submissions and standing striking and Lesnar with vicious ground and pound). After a long brutal fight, with both man standing bloodied, Lesnar was awarded the win and was now the Pride FC heavyweight champion and in many peoples eyes, the GOAT of the HW division.
Lesnar would defend his title a few times before deciding that he no longer wanted to travel so far to compete especially with being away from his family for such extended periods of time. Following the buyout of Pride, Lesnar took this as an opportunity to once again fight for the UFC. Now considered one of the best fighters in the world and having fought the best from all around the world Lesnar would finally get his rematch against then HW champion Randy Couture.
Unlike their first fight Lesnar would complete dominate Couture in 2008 showing the world that he was the GOAT and sending Couture back to the LHW division once and for all. Over the next 2 years Lesnar would defeat every competitor thrown at him with few signs of slowing down, until in early 2010 before a scheduled fight with Shane Carwin, Lesnar would have to pull out of the fight due to a serious illness, which would later be revealed to be Diverticulitis.
Lesnar would eventually fight Carwin as he did in real life at UFC 116 to great celebration by his many fans. However, in this timeline, due to Lesnar being even more greatly affected by the Diverticulitis and with his chin greatly damaged due to brutal wars with Fedor and other great fighters, after being swarmed in the first round by Carwin would be knocked out for the very first time of his career.
Many fans now started to speculate whether Lesnar had ever been as good as people thought he had been, with many of his previous victories being discounted as victories over cans and other underachievers whilst his supporters believed that it was simply the illness and his age finally catching up to him. Lesnar decided that he was ready for one last final title run in the octagon and faced Cain Velasquez in a title eliminator at UFC 121. However, for Lesnar this fight didn't go as planned, as the younger, more athletic Velasquez was able to take down Lesnar at will and TKO him in the first round.
Following this humiliating defeat Lesnar retired from the sport of MMA for which some praised him for his great career, whilst others believed that he was never as great as people believed he was.
So it seems that even in an alternate universe in which Lesnar was able to improve his striking and make his fighting more well-rounded, Lesnar would still end his career with many doubting his true abilities and not believing him to be the great fighter that he was.
Thank you for reading. Please answer the poll below detailing how you believe that Lesnar would have been received had he gone straight into MMA and with what status he would have retired with. Please feel free to comment and suggest further ideas for alternate history pieces.