LAS VEGAS – So Brock Lesnar, in the parlance of pro wrestling, had gone straight heel.
After bludgeoning Frank Mir to retain the Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight championship at the hyped UFC 100, the former pro wrestling star decided to put on a real show.
Lesnar ran around the octagon flipping off the Mandalay Bay Events Center crowd with both middle fingers. He shouted at Mir as the challenger sat on a stool trying to regain his equilibrium. Mir stood up and they went sort of nose-to-broken nose before Lesnar cackled with laughter.
In the post-fight interview, Lesnar encouraged the booing fans to “keep going” before continuing to taunt Mir.
No one and nothing was spared. Lesnar even turned his attention to the UFC itself, which paid him an estimated $3 million for the fight, pointing at the giant Bud Light advertisement in the middle of the octagon.
“I’m drinking a cooler full of Coors Light, Coors Light because Bud Light won’t pay me anything."
Anything for the children at home, big guy?
“Hell, I might even get on top of my wife tonight.”
With his clown-show antics, Brock Lesnar just became the greatest villain in modern fighting. From refusing to tap gloves prefight in a sportsmanlike ritual to this over-the-top rant that came right out of the silly wrestling circus.
“Straight WWE,” said a stunned Dana White, the president of the UFC. “Brock went so far over the top tonight I can’t even describe it. I don’t think in the history of the UFC we’ve ever done anything like that.”
Postfight, White pushed his way into Lesnar's crowded locker room and took the big guy into the bathroom for a private “discussion.” Lesnar himself described it as “a whip-the-dog session.”
“With women in here you don’t want to know what I said,” White said. It worked, Brock showed up at the press conference smiling, supposedly contrite and even drinking a Bud Light.
“First and foremost I want to apologize,” Lesnar said. “I acted very unprofessionally after the fight. I screwed up and I apologize. I apologize to Bud Light. I’m not biased, I drink any beer."
It was mostly a chance for laugh lines, but it was still an apology. Lesnar said the pent-up energy of avenging a loss to Mir caused him to go crazy. “I’m a sore loser,” he said. “I don’t like to get beat. I believe I gave that fight to him. So there was a lot of emotion in this fight for me.
"Man, I was so jacked up. I’m used to selling pay-per-view tickets. I come from a business that is purely the entertainment business.”
And so that was the excuse. Lesnar didn’t flip, he just flipped the switch back into Vince McMahon’s operation where nothing is too over the top. The UFC, however, is real and it has tried to position itself not as a blood sport but one based on sportsmanship and mutual respect.
Lesnar did the UFC no favors in that regard. And neither did veteran Dan Henderson, who dropped a vicious forearm smash on an already knocked out and prone Michael Bisping on the undercard. Henderson then admitted he did it on purpose to avenge prefight trash talk. The UFC even went on to award him its $100,000 “knockout of the night” bonus. White also gave Henderson a talking to, but Henderson still said it “felt good.”
The damage done to the UFC’s mainstream momentum remains to be seen. While some will be repulsed, others will be drawn in. It's cage fighting, after all. Things get out of hand.
That this occurred on the promotion’s biggest night, when the numerical significance of the card was expected to bring in a large first-time audience, wasn't appreciated by the UFC. The night was electric and highly entertaining. And while it is likely to most offend people who weren’t disposed to giving mixed martial arts a chance in the first place, White was aghast at Lesnar's act. This isn’t what he built. This isn’t what he wanted.
“What he’s doing out there tonight is not real,” White said. “You don’t have to act like something you're not. This isn’t the WWE. I don’t ask these guys to act crazy so we get more pay per views. That’s not the business I’m in."
In the meantime, the cementing of Lesnar’s reputation as the promotion's most hated man is done.
“Brock hasn’t made himself very loveable,” White said. “They hate Brock.” For the UFC, a classic villain is business gold. He’s the ultimate leading man for the organization. Some loathe him. Some love him. No one can ignore him. For those seeking his comeuppance however, there isn’t a WWE storyline that can be written to stop him.
Lost in the antics was Lesnar’s performance, a brilliant effort that showed both his growth as a mixed martial artist and the immense potential. The question becomes, who the heck can tame this mountain of a man from the Minnesota woods?
Shane Carwin? Cain Velasquez? Mir in a final chapter of a trilogy of fights? No doubt they’ll get a chance, and no doubt they stand a chance.
The greatest beneficiary of each Lesnar snarl, however, lives in Stary Oskol, Russia, a man named Fedor Emelianenko who is considered the No. 1 heavyweight (if not pound-for-pound fighter) in the world. If anyone has the knockout power to stop the 6-3, 265-pound Lesnar, it’s Emelianenko.
Fedor doesn’t fight in the UFC though. He’s with its rival promotion, Affliction. He’ll fight Aug. 1 in Anaheim, Calif., in what is the last match of his contract. Affliction is hoping to re-sign him until 2012, but the UFC will come hard after him. More now then ever. And that means money, big money.
“Eventually Fedor is going to be here,” White said. “I want Fedor. We’ll end up getting that deal done and then we’ll do Brock vs. Fedor and we’ll do a huge fight.”
Time will tell, but the pressure to sign the elusive Russian has been ratcheted up. A villain was born and there isn’t an obvious superhero in sight. The UFC brought Brock Lesnar over from the WWE for just this kind of a sensation. And the big man has delivered – the good, the bad and the embarrassing.
Only Dana White has no scriptwriters that can contain him.