Georges St-Pierre and Brock Lesnar have more to do with one another than you think.
Fans and pundits are heralding the return of one of the UFC's biggest draws, welterweight champ and Canadian sports icon Georges St-Pierre, because his return to the fore will boost the UFC's numbers and bring them out of their current rut—but I'd rather have Brock Lesnar.
GSP's UFC 154 return is happening in the midst of MMA's largest wave of malaise since the infamous dark ages of the late 1990s. The incessant talk of decline has been triggered by declining numbers across the board and panic about how to rekindle the good ol' days of the "fastest growing sport in the world" of the mid to late 2000s during The Ultimate Fighter's boom.
St-Pierre's absence for the past year is, without a doubt, a massive factor in the apparent lack of interest in UFC pay-per-views. However, so is the absence of Brock Lesnar, a man who regularly drew over 500,000 buys and managed to surpass the mystical one-million-buys mark on several occasions.
Many of the fans who are praising GSP's return for its financial benefits were, sadly, the same people who were perniciously bashing Lesnar at every turn, from comments on articles, to MMA message boards, to Twitter.
Why is it OK for GSP to be a champion that sells tickets and PPVs when Lesnar was regularly chided by fans for doing the same thing?
The answer lies in the fact that Lesnar's background was in the WWE and that Lesnar, because of his star power, was given a faster track to the title than most other fighters (he was only 2-1 when he got his title shot). Fans although thought he lacked talent; he was a brute with name value and a lame sword tattoo on his chest.
But was Lesnar's title shot really that bad? St-Pierre was only 7-0 when he was awarded a shot at the welterweight title, a difference of only four fights. And it's not as if Lesnar's entry into the title scene wasn't the first time such decisions were fueled by money.
Ken Shamrock was coming off a loss and was 1-2 in his last three before he fought Tito Ortiz for the UFC light heavyweight title at UFC 40, but it didn't matter. The UFC knew it'd be bankable.
Just so, any card with Lesnar's name attached would do well. Thus, there was no reason not to give him a title shot, provided he could compete—and he did.
Lesnar was (and still is) not a well-liked man among "hardcore" fans, but his legacy should be equally prestigious to that of GSP's.
Like St-Pierre helped grow MMA's casual fanbase in Canada, Lesnar likewise helped grow MMA's casual fanbase in the United States, providing a much-needed lift to the sagging TUF boom.
Lesnar should not be demonized as a pro wrestler or as a talentless jerk who was pushed because he was famous. He was a crucial part of the UFC's history and a boon to the national consciousness of the sport: When Lesnar was on a card, millions paid attention. How many other fighters can such a statement be true for?
So when you're opining about how wonderful it is that GSP is back because he'll save PPV sales and revitalize interest in the sport, think of Brock Lesnar, because that Lesnar's legacy. True, GSP will always be an amazing figure in the sport of MMA, but he'll never be a Brock Lesnar.
All pay-per-view statistics were cited from the MMAPayout Blue Book.