I have been complaining about people still clinging onto any vestige or reason to mention Brock Lesnar, shaken and confused that the biggest draw in the history of mixed martial arts is gone.
Yes, he was the UFC heavyweight champion and I am not one of the haters that will say that he was awful or that he had no skills. I completely acknowledge what Lesnar accomplished in a short time in the UFC. I do have an issue with the fact that he was pushed to the top too fast, though.
The fact Lesnar was pushed rapidly up the ladder by Dana White and the UFC is not much of a surprise and it worked out very well for them. He could have been a much better, complete warrior had he been given time to develop. However, we do not know if he would have suffered the diverticulitis regardless of his training and other factors.
Had the UFC decided to let Lesnar develop slowly, and he still ended up being sidelined with the disease, he never would have captured the title in all likelihood and the company would have missed out on a lot of revenue. Let us not forget he was the biggest draw in MMA history. So, even though I disagree with the UFC's extremely fast push of Lesnar, it is easy to understand the UFC's decision from a business standpoint.
On Friday, Dec. 30, 2011, at UFC 141, Lesnar was easily dismantled by an equally powerful heavyweight, current No. 1 heavyweight contender Alistair Overeem. As soon as the fight was over Lesnar announced he was leaving the sport for good. The ride was over.
Fast forward to the present day. It is now March 2012 and the UFC is scrambling to replace its biggest draw.
Lesnar was very polarizing and he could sell a fight with his crass, macho nature better than anyone. Jon Jones and Georges St-Pierre have also proved to be draws along with UFC middleweight champion and pound-for-pound kingpin Anderson Silva, but not a single one of these men has brought in pay-per-view numbers in the realm of what Brock Lesnar did.
With GSP sitting on the sidelines for all of 2012 and Silva not competing until summer, a lot of the current pressure is on current light heavyweight champion Jones to fill the void left by the man with the big sword tattoo.
Can the UFC recover its pay-per-view numbers of 2008-2010? It is very possible, but a few changes must happen to ensure that.
Can the UFC bring in pay-per-view numbers in the millions buy stratosphere without Brock Lesnar? The answer is yes, although it will most likely not be soon.
The main issue at hand is that although we don't want to admit it, MMA has a long way to go to enter the realm of soccer, football, baseball, basketball or hockey. At this point it is a long shot to have a mixed martial artist who can draw simply off being an MMA fighter.
Brock Lesnar was the biggest pay-per-view draw in UFC history by far and most of his buying power stemmed from the fact that he was already a famous, polarizing figure known widely for his time in the WWE. The UFC exploited who he had been and it keep the money and the interest flowing.
In reality, the UFC must now come to terms with the fact that in the future, it cannot rely on the Brock Lesnars of the world to solve its problems with acceptance to the mainstream audience.
A move to the FOX family of networks goes a long way, but when the day comes that guys like Jon Jones and Junior dos Santos can draw huge numbers off their fighting fame alone, then the sport will have made it to the big time.
Brock Lesnar, thank you for the excitement and attention you brought to the UFC. However, now we must create homegrown MMA talent. The days of the novelty types who have to have a former fame to draw is going to have to come to an end for MMA to reach that next level.
The day for this is approaching but it definitely not here yet. Expect to see similar types of guys coming into the Octagon for awhile. (Example: Cung Le is a similar type of fighter who is much more famous for his kickboxing background and movie work than he is for his MMA career.)
The UFC will survive and flourish in a world without Brock Lesnar, but it simply will not see pay-per-view success on his level until the fanbase increases to a level that will bring in that big of an audience willing to pay for it.
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