Brock Lesnar Call-out Shows Alistair Overeem Still Not in Tune with UFC Audience

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Brock Lesnar Call-out Shows Alistair Overeem Still Not in Tune with UFC Audience
USA Today

We’ve known for years that Alistair Overeem marches to the beat of his own electronic dance music.

For a dozen fights immediately preceding his arrival in the UFC, he walked a relatively solitary path, absconding with the Strikeforce heavyweight title to flit between promotions in Europe and Asia.

Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

At times he appeared aloof—as if he could take or leave his MMA career—mixing in the occasional kickboxing tourney and always being more concerned with the bottom line than his place in the sport.

Even now that he’s an Octagon mainstay, Overeem doesn’t seem to get it.

Case in point: Saturday night’s UFC 169, where he capped an important victory over Frank Mir by calling out a 36-year-old professional wrestler he personally battered into retirement two years ago.

"I heard there's word that Brock Lesnar is coming back to the UFC,” Overeem told Joe Rogan inside the cage, via Yahoo Sports. “Well, I'll be here waiting for him.”

So, yeah, that was strange.

Though he tried to explain himself during an appearance on Monday’s episode of The MMA Hour (h/t MMA Fighting), the Lesnar call-out struck a discordant note with onlookers. It was nonsensical, maybe even a bit mean-spirited and weirdly typical from a guy who’s always insisted on plotting his own unorthodox course.

Above all else, it was a reminder that Overeem still isn’t on the same page with the rest of the sport.

It’s telling that, after earning his first win in the Octagon since 2011, his first thought wasn’t to say he was coming for UFC champion Cain Velasquez.

He didn’t think to call out former titlist Junior dos Santos, whom Overeem was scheduled to fight at UFC 160 before a positive drug test put him on ice.

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

He didn’t even invoke the names Fabricio Werdum or Travis Browne, who have fought him before and will battle each other for No. 1 contender status in April.

No, his first thought was to passively challenge a guy who doesn’t work for the company to a fight that will never happen. A fight that—even if the seas did part for Lesnar’s return—would make them both a few bucks but would do nothing for "The Reem's" stature in the heavyweight division.

It was the kind of thing that could only stem from a desire to mix an easy victory with an enormous payday, and Dana White squelched it immediately at the post-fight press conference.

"Brock Lesnar is not coming back,” White said, via Fox Sports. “Brock Lesnar is not fighting."

Call it the latest piece of evidence that Overeem isn’t exactly in tune with the UFC, either.

The organization has bent over backward to fashion him into a legitimate, relevant No. 1 contender, giving him second, third and fourth chances after his positive PEDs test and back-to-back losses.

A fighter with less upside—especially one earning an estimated $285,000 to $400,000 per fight—might have found himself out of work a while ago. Yet the fight company still gives the impression that it would like nothing more than for Overeem to slug his way back into contention.

With each passing performance, however, it appears like the fearsome competitor who won 11 fights in a row from 2007-2011 might not be coming back.

White deemed Saturday’s wipeout of Mir “crappy” in an interview with Fox Sports 1 (via Bloody Elbow), and as Overeem’s Herculean physique has faded in the wake of his bust for elevated levels of testosterone, so too has his killer instinct.

At 33 years old, the picture of Overeem today may be of a once-terrifying heavyweight in decline.

Fans and UFC brass would no doubt like to see him fully engaged in the process, reverting to previous form and inflicting remorseless violence on the competition. Instead he’s slumping his way to victories over fading stars like Mir and calling out guys who haven’t been active MMA fighters since the end of 2011.

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His next fight will be a big one and likely designed to get him back in the thick of the title picture—think JDS or Stipe Miocic as an opponent.

Like the Mir bout, it will also be a must-win.

If Overeem means to replant his flag among the heavyweight elite, he’ll need to show the promotion he still has the skills to do impressive things to the top contenders.

To win back the fans, he’ll have to show them that his head is still in the game.

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