A few weeks ago, my publicist from FOX Sports, Bob Broderick, hit me up with an interview request from ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption. Even though we were still a month from the start of NFL training camp, I figured they wanted another take on Favre and Vick. And of course, what sports show wouldn’t be complete without a question or two about whether T.O. will cause a war between us and Canada?
How wrong was I?
“They don’t want anything about football. They need you for their biggest story of the last day or two,” Broderick said.
“They want you for Brock Lesnar. They’ve been hitting it really hard. I’m assuming you have a position on the matter?”
I was front and center for Lesnar’s methodical destruction of Frank Mir at UFC 100, but I didn’t think much about his post-fight performance as I jumped into the Vegas nightlife rather than the blogs. (I really shouldn’t have watched The Hangover five times before I went to Vegas!) I had little idea just how much attention the man’s beer preference and bedroom position of choice had generated, unaware that his actions had set off a firestorm. In the ensuing weeks, I honestly received more questions about Lesnar than I did about Vick and Favre combined. Actually, the public’s reaction probably created more shock value for me than Lesnar’s actions. The question from everybody — be it PTI, Donovan Craig, our esteemed editor at FIGHT!, or stars of other sports — was exactly the same: Do you think Brock is good for your sport?
An absolute, definitive … ummmm, perhaps. Or maybe an absolute, positive … we’ll see.
I have reasons to criticize not only his comments, but his actions toward Mir even after he had accomplished his goal. In listening to arguments and the opinions from many in the media, I believe Lesnar has quickly become a villainous figure just like in his WWE days.
My biggest problem? Our sport itself has been vilified enough by those who don’t get it. We don’t need to hand deliver the naysayers another villain to lead their charge against us.
I implore Mr. Lesnar to learn from his predecessors — Randy Couture, Chuck Liddell and Georges St. Pierre. Learn the humility that actually makes them appear stronger, more secure with their brute force. You don’t need to act like one of Vince McMahon’s creations to elicit a response from the masses. Let your fists and inspiring ground and pound draw raves from the sports world. In this respect, no, Lesnar’s act is not good for our sport. I appreciate when a champion is an ambassador for a sport that, unfortunately, still needs it. Hey, if we were a mainstream sport with mainstream media coverage and money for our athletes, then I really wouldn’t care what this giant of a man did. But Lesnar needs to grasp what his fellow fighters do: We are all in this thing together. Everyone has his part in trying to bring it to the higher levels, which would then allow more fighters to make a solid, decent living in the world of MMA. Turn people off, and that turns viewers and advertisers away — and that, in turn, takes money out of everyone’s pockets.
Now, with all that said, a guy like Lesnar could be one of the best things this sport has had – IF HE PLAYS IT RIGHT! In the end, we could all owe this man a big, fat thank you.
The fact that mainstream shows and media are now running to cover the UFC, albeit because of controversy, is still a positive step. We still need the mainstream publicity. The fact that one of the signature shows on ESPN had spent three days covering the episode, well, insert obligatory P.T. Barnum reference here.
Plus, we want the champions of our sport to be revered by the public as the baddest men alive. Sorry, boxing fans, but this man would have absolutely brutalized any boxer you can name in his prime. Having a guy like Brock roll through and dismantle other top talent isn’t the worst thing for us … as long as he keeps himself under control. But even in asking for a certain restraint, I can’t fully fault him for his post-fight reaction. I understand why he flipped. It’s a very emotional sport, and the cage is a volatile place to roam.
It’s almost ignorant to ask a guy to jump into a cage with the emotions of a killer in a war zone but the moment Herb Dean says stop, he MUST immediately flip the switch off and become Mr. All-American Nice Guy, all within a fraction of a second. Some simply can’t turn it off that easily. But if you want the privilege of being a champion in this sport right now — it’s your privilege, not your right — then carry the torch upright, please.
I’m going to root for Lesnar to continue to grow as a fighter. But with that, I hope next time he will roll in and out with a better understanding of his role in the formative stages of the best sport in the world. As long as he doesn’t drag us down, this man could be the big, bad wolf we’ve been waiting for.