Yesterday Brock Lesnar broke the news of his retirement from UFC on Sportscenter. According to Brock, Vince McMahon made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. That, combined with his satisfaction in the way his MMA career went led him to close the cage door forever on returning to the UFC.
So with his MMA career officially over, we figured the time was ripe to do a recap of some of Brock Lesnar’s highs and lows.
Brock’s UFC career began against former heavyweight champ Frank Mir. While there’s no denying the UFC was dropping Brock into the deep end, this was not the same Mir who had won his belt or who is still making good on the tail end of his career. This was a Frank Mir who was still struggling to recover from a horrible motorcycle accident that almost ended his career and left him addicted to painkillers for years.
Lesnar came out strong and used his size to dominate Mir, knocking him to the ground and unleashing a string of hammerstrikes that might have ended the fight – if referee Steve Mazzagatti hadn’t determined they were illegal blows to the back of the head. He reset the fight, and Frank used his legendary jiu jitsu skills to land a kneebar on Brock.
It was like something out of the WWE: a questionable call by the referee completely changed the outcome of the fight.
Brock returned six months later more determined than ever to win in the UFC and prove his detractors wrong. His fight with PRIDE veteran Heath Herring showed that he had the power and skills to take out many of the fighters in the UFC’s heavyweight division.
After winning the title from Randy Couture, Brock Lesnar turned his attention to unfinished business with Frank Mir. He insisted that Nevada not allow Steve Mazzagatti to ref his fight, and this time things went more to Brock’s liking. His improved skills allowed him to bully Mir on the feet and keep out of danger on the ground. In the second round he got Mir to give up his back and beat him bloody against the cage.
Not content with the win, Lesnar circled back after the fight to scream insults at a dazed Frank Mir. Ushers had to hold the former WWE superstar back to ensure Lesnar-Mir III didn’t kick off immediately. And then he gave one of the most controversial speeches in UFC history.
The UFC, who had just recently secured Bud Light as one of their first true blue chip sponsors, wasn’t happy that Brock had thrown Bud under the bus in favor of Coors. But all the drama only made Lesnar more of a star. He was winning fights and talking smack. Love it or hate it, the fans were paying attention.
But the heavyweight division was only getting tougher as time went on. A fight with Shane Carwin showed cracks in Lesnar’s invincible persona as Carwin rocked him with heavy hands. And then came Cain Velasquez, still regarded as the current best heavyweight on the planet. Velasquez dominated Brock Lesnar and finished him in the first, taking his belt and leaving him bloodied.
Lesnar’s final fight in the UFC would be a year later following a (too brief) departure to recover from an intestinal disease called diverticulitis. He was faced with heavy hitting Dutch kickboxer Alistair Overeem, who had no issues targeting Brock’s stomach with brutal knees and relentless kicks.
Afterwards, doctors said it was insane for Lesnar to have returned in his state, and that he likely fought the majority of his career at a fraction of his full potential because of the effects of diverticulitis. What could have been is something fans will debate for years to come. Was Brock Lesnar’s reign as heavyweight champ a result of a weak division or his freak athleticism? How would he do now against today’s crop of UFC heavyweights?
It looks like we will never find out, as Brock will continue to entertain fans in the squared circle instead of the Octagon.