"So Couture is fighting Lesnar this weekend, right?"
"Yeah, Saturday night," I replied before my head quickly snapped to the right to do a double-take.
I turned to see a friend of mine, sitting in a lazy-boy recliner, with his eyes wide and a look on his face of excitement. This is a guy who would opt for re-runs of "King of Queens" over an Ultimate Fight Night 10 times out of 10. A friend who if asked about Tito Ortiz, would probably guess that it was a slightly modified version of the Dirty Sanchez. Someone who refers to Chuck Liddell as "that guy with the mo-hawk on Entourage."
An MMA fan, he is not.
Needless to say, I was a little surprised when he initiated a conversation about the upcoming bout. Here was an individual who had taken zero interest in the sport up until now, sitting on the edge of his seat and looking like he couldn't wait another minute to watch Couture and Lesnar throw down.
If Dana White was in the room, he would have been grinning ear to ear with money signs spinning in his eyes like an old school cartoon character.
These were precisely the moments White was hoping for when the BLP (Brock Lesnar Project) began last October. An opportunity to reel in an otherwise uninterested twenty-something by pitting Lesnar against one of the sport's biggest and brightest stars.
For all intents and purposes, we are on the verge of the biggest fight in the history of mixed martial arts... and make no mistake, when Dana White lies in bed at night (on a big pile of money I'm assuming), there's a script that continuously plays in his head.
Brock Lesnar's hand being raised in the middle of the octagon.
There's been plenty of rumblings throughout the MMA world about Lesnar's meteoric rise to the top of the UFC totem pole, and more specifically, just how deserving he is. Some liken Lesnar to a slightly more talented Kimbo Slice—a fighter who has been propelled to the front of the line past much more deserving combatants based solely on his commercial appeal. It's an argument that certainly holds some weight.
But Dana White has maintained since day one that the former WWE wrestler was not a circus act. He told us his immense wrestling background provided him with the qualifications to hang with the top heavyweights in the world, and while Lesnar's resume is considerably shorter than most men who find themselves on the verge of a UFC title shot, he's been no freak show.
A dominant victory over Heath Herring and an impressive display against Frank Mir (albeit in defeat) have helped his stock rise.
Saturday night's main event will provide Lesnar, White and ultimately the UFC with a chance for justification in which they've previously yet to encounter. Lesnar has the opportunity to de-throne a legend of the sport and one of the top heavyweights in the world, lining himself up for the most prestigious title in the world while silencing his numerous critics in the process.
White has the chance to look like a genius and prove that his gamble with Lesnar was much more than just a shrewd marketing ploy. The UFC, 15 years after its initial event, has the opportunity to further expand it's fan base and take another giant step forward in terms of mainstream relativity.
Don't get me wrong, If Randy Couture defeats Lesnar on Saturday night, the UFC will not die. Thousands of fans will scream themselves hoarse inside the MGM Arena in Las Vegas, while hundreds of thousands will perform similar celebrations while watching via pay-per-view.
Dana White will pop up in the octagon, smiling wide and singing the praises of his most prized competitor like he's done so many times before. Lesnar will tell Joe Rogan that it's back to the drawing board, or some other similar cliche' that we've heard a hundred times over.
But the UFC will not gain anything from this situation, they will only lose. Couture is already a legend and although a victory over the mammoth Lesnar will provide another notch in his belt, it will have little effect on his legacy.
His respect out of the octagon is only paralleled by his success within it. Couture could come out in a bunny suit and get knocked out in three seconds...and I'd still consider the man a hero.
A loss for Lesnar can have much bigger implications however. Not only does it slow his momentum considerably but it lines him up for a string of not-so-exciting fights with the likes of Gabe Gonzaga, Cheick Kongo and the rest of the UFC's second-tier heavyweights. It also opens up questions of his legitimacy and the UFC's reasoning for pushing him near the front so quickly.
Dana White has answered to plenty of critics about Lesnar's qualifications, a group that he can expect to increase ten-fold if Couture runs through him on Saturday. With the aforementioned Kimbo Slice's career crumbling before our very eyes only a month ago, a similar situation with Lesnar would be a disaster for the UFC. And Dana White. And their bank accounts.
If Lesnar wins on the other hand, it will mark a symbolic passing of the torch in the UFC's HW division and sets Lesnar up to lead the company for the considerable future. Fights with Antonio Noguiera, Cain Valesquez and a re-match with Mir are not only main event calibre match-ups, but they also provide Lesnar with the opportunity to begin carving out his own legacy.
It's not a coincidence that the UFC's most popular PPV events have featured Lesnar, and it's a trend that will likely continue if he's able to keep his career moving in the right direction. The sport has never seen bigger potential, both literally and figuratively.
Dana White predicts over 1.2 million pay-per-view buys for this weekends card, which would easily make it the most watched event in the history of the organization. If you're like me, you'll be tuning in on Saturday night to not only watch an anticipated clash, but to hopefully watch a piece of history.
My friend will be plunked down in front of the TV too, willingly watching the first UFC PPV of his life. There will be countless others just like him...tuning in to see that wrestling guy take on the old man they call Captain America.
But no one will be watching as close as Dana White.
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