“I’m a fighter, and I believe that if somebody should be holding a belt in the UFC, it’s Brock Lesnar.”
Following his loss to Alistair Overeem at UFC 141 on December 30, controversial superstar Brock Lesnar surprised the world when he announced his retirement from MMA. Lesnar suffered a TKO loss to Overeem just 2:26 into the first round in the main event at the MGM Grand Arena.
“My hat’s off to Alistair Overeem. I want to take my hat off to all my training partners, to my wife, my family. I’ve had a really difficult couple of years with my disease. I’m going to say officially, tonight was the last time you’ll see me in the Octagon. I want to thank everyrone. I want to thank the Fertittas [co-founders of Zuffa, UFC’s parent company]. Brock Lesnar is officially retired. I promised my wife and kids, if I won I’d get a title shot and it would be my last fight. It’s been a pleasure,” said Lesnar.
“My thought is I think he shouldn’t walk away. Love him or hate him, but it’s always something exciting when Brock’s fighting. He’s a guy who goes for it. He achieved a lot in a short span. It’s a shame if he stops now. I think there’s more in the game for him,” said Overeem.
Lesnar’s retirement leaves the UFC without one of its biggest stars in a time where the company is under global expansion. UFC boss Dana White said that he wasn’t all that shocked by Lesnar’s announcement:
“I had no idea he was going to do that. Am I surprised? No. He’s made a lot of money in his career. He’s achieved a lot of things.
“Brock came to me one night here at the MGM [in 2007]. He said he wanted to fight in the UFC and I laughed. He had only had one fight. What that man accomplished coming in with only one fight is amazing. I get it. I doesn’t shock me. But I didn’t know it was coming.
“When a guy wants to retire, it’s his thing. This isn’t a game where you hit a ball with a stick. You don’t half-ass this stuff. When you know it’s over, it’s over. The bad part is when I think it’s over and the guy doesn’t.”
In his post-fight interview, “the next big thing” said that he promised his wife, Rena, former 1990s WWE star “Sable” and Playboy cover girl that if he won, he would challenge Junior dos Santos for the UFC Heavyweight Championship, which was the prize awarded to the winner of the Lesnar/Overeem fight. Lesnar said, however, that even if he had won the title off dos Santos, he then would have retired as champion.
The gameplan heading into this was simple. There were essentially two schools of thought: one, Lesnar would take down Overeem and finish him quickly on the ground; or two, Lesnar would be unsuccessful in taking Overeem down, and the world champion kickboxer would make quick work of Lesnar on his feet.
The fact that Lesnar lasted 2:26 against one of the best fighters in the world, however, is nothing short of remarkable. Save for his broken rib and injured liver (from the Overeem fight), the former WWE Champion underwent surgery on May 27, 2011 in which 12 inches of his intestine was removed after recurring attacks of diverticulitis that nearly ended his life in 2009. It was insane for Lesnar to enter the fight altogether, let alone for his critics to believe that he was healthy and able to legitimately compete–regardless of how much Lesnar said he was in the best shape he’s been in years.
“I have the same assessment. When you’re in with a striker, you don’t stay in his range. He was close and grabbed a single and didn’t commit to it. I’m not a trainer. I’m nobody’s coach. I don’t understand why he wouldn’t take one shot, especially when you’re getting kicked and hit,” said White.
Thankfully, Lesnar’s retirement hasn’t broken the relationship he and White have.
“I’ve had moments with Brock Lesnar, but overall we’ve had a great relationship. I’ve never had a situation with the guy where we haven’t done the right thing.”
It all started following a K-1 victory over Min Soo Kim. Lesnar spoke out regarding some UFC champions, waiting for White to give him his chance in the UFC:
“I mean, you take Randy Couture for example, I mean he’s the heavyweight champion of the UFC, but he’s a small heavyweight. Let’s face it, Tim Sylvia was not a legitimate heavyweight champion.
“I enjoyed watching Randy beat the (expletive) out of Tim Sylvia. I enjoyed that. I mean take a look at this guy, Tim Sylvia, the guy’s feet, they’re damn near webbed. He looks like the Swamp Thing. The guy is a vulture. He can’t wrestle worth a crap. He’s got a jab and a little right hand. There’s no way. I’d double-leg his ass right through that cage so fast, and that would be the end of the fight. I’m tired. I’m tired of this. Brock Lesnar wants to fight somebody, somebody with credentials, and Tim Sylvia ain’t the guy.”
With just a 1-0 record, Lesnar was signed to a multi-fight contract and made his UFC debut against Frank Mir. Unfortunately for Brock, he lost via submission, although Mir’s face certainly looked like he came up on the losing end. Lesnar came back strong, however, beating Heath Herring, then TKO’ing legend Randy Couture to win the UFC Heavyweight Championship. In his title defence, he got some revenge, defeating Mir at UFC 100. Lesnar looked to be on top of the world, but his diverticulitis had other plans.
Following his return, Lesnar no longer looked like the same fighter. While he beat Shane Carwin in his return, he lost to Cain Velasquez in his next fight for the UFC Heavyweight Championship. Another fight with diverticulitis came in 2011 following a coaching stint on The Ultimate Figher alongside dos Santos. A few months later, after recovering, he faced his final battle in the cage against Alistair Overeem.
The question now remains, what will be made of Lesnar’s legacy?
Let’s take a step back and look at the facts. Lesnar has just eight career pro fights (5-3, 4-3 in UFC). That’s it. He’s still a green rookie, and his years of experience can be counted on one hand. Yet, he was still a Heavyweight Champion. Lesnar was a wrestling champion in college–his NCAA title, however, came in 2000, whereas his UFC career began almost a decade later when he was 30. Regardless of his incredible size, wrestling ability and athleticism, Lesnar simply did not have the skill level to compete with the best in his weight class this early in his career.
Looking forward in 2012, Lesnar is already rumoured to be in discussions with WWE (2002-2004) once again–possibly fighting The Undertaker at WrestleMania 28. And why not? Lesnar would be another huge draw for WWE, in addition to The Rock’s return at ‘Mania. Lesnar earned something in the range of $3M, not including endorsements, in each of his four previous fights. Much more, however, can be earned through WWE paychecks given Pay-Per-Views, royalties, etc. WWE CEO Vince McMahon wanted Lesnar to face Undertaker at WrestleMania 27, but Brock was under a UFC-exclusive contract at the time, and couldn’t make it happen. If Lesnar were to return to WWE, it would surely be on a limited, part-time schedule, as Lesnar has already said that he wouldn’t return as a full-time talent.
Now, Lesnar’s contract with UFC is finished. He’s a free agent, able to sign wherever he pleases, doing whatever he wants. A main event match with The Undertaker at WrestleMania 28 may not be as farfetched as it one was.
Although his MMA career appears to officially be over, his career and legacy will continue to be the subject of debate. One cannot question, however, that Lesnar was one of the biggest draws in UFC history, and his four years in the industry were unparalleled from an individual impact standpoint. Lesnar’s WWE career gave the UFC a sea of new fans, ones that may not have turned to MMA had it not been for Lesnar’s jump. Love him or hate him, Lesnar was amazing–the Pay-Per-View sales alone prove that Lesnar was one of the most popular and watched fighters to ever enter the octagon.What would’ve happened if UFC, as big as it is today, was around when he was younger? Simply put, Lesnar would’ve been unstoppable. In just four short years, Lesnar has cemented his MMA legacy. Beginning at square one, Lesnar was immediately thrown into the cage with the best the world had to offer. Despite his inexperience, Lesnar fought to become champion.
With his days in the octagon officially over, “the next big thing” may have been the biggest thing the UFC has ever seen.