Brock Lesnar: A Career Timeline Leading into UFC 141 War with Alistair Overeem
The stage has been set. December 30, 2011. Las Vegas, Nevada. UFC 141.
It is on this grand stage, the final UFC event of 2011, that former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar will make his long awaited return to the Octagon. Standing in the opposite corner, making his long awaited Octagon debut, will be former Strikeforce heavyweight champion, "The Demolition Man" Alistair Overeem.
The battle between these two heavyweight monsters was only announced a few short days ago and is already one of the most anticipated fights of the last few years. Not only that, but thanks to the main event, UFC 141 is gearing up to be the biggest (or one of the biggest) pay per view draw in the history of mixed martial arts. This clash simply has "money" written all over it.
Unsurprisingly, MMA's online community has already produced hundreds of opinion pieces regarding the fight. Some have argued who will win or lose, some have presented betting odds and others have simply marveled at how huge of an event this is certain to be.
In addition to the already innumerable articles out there, we here at Bleacher Report have decided to take a break from the norm, and simply present to you the history of one half of this heavyweight clash, Brock Lesnar.
Let's start by taking a look at a few of his accomplishments, beginning with his NCAA wrestling career:
- NCAA Division 1 Heavyweight Wrestling Champion
- 3-Time WWE Champion
- IWGP Heavyweight Champion
- NFL Linebacker (Final roster cut of the 2004 Minnesota Vikings)
- Highest paid mixed martial artist of all time.
- Main draw for the highest grossing UFC pay per view of all time.
- Undisputed UFC Heavyweight Champion
While that is certainly an impressive resume, Brock Lesnar's list of career highlights is more unique than anything. Let's take a look back, shall we, at exactly how Lesnar would go from a regular child in the nowhere town of Webster, South Dakota, all the way up to main event attraction at the biggest events in MMA history!
Brock Edward Lesnar came into this world during the summer of 1977, in the small town of Webster, South Dakota.
Following your typical farm boy childhood (hard work with a fight here and there), Lesnar would eventually make his way to Webster High School. Though he admittedly graduated at the bottom of his 54-student class, Lesnar did manage to excel at one area in particular. That one area, however, would take him from a farm in South Dakota all the way to superstardom around the globe.
That area was amateur wrestling.
An aggressive kid from the very beginning, Lesnar would amass a record of 33-0 during his senior year at Webster High. It was that impressive record which allowed Lesnar a spot on the Bismark State College wrestling team in North Dakota and, eventually, a full wrestling scholarship with the highly regarded University of Minnesota Golden Gophers.
By the time Lesnar graduated from the University of Minnesota, he was a multiple time All-American, a multiple time Big Ten Conference Champion, and the 2000 NCAA Heavyweight Champion. His final collegiate wrestling record was an incredible 106-5.
No, that's not a typo. Brock Lesnar won one hundred-six wrestling matches over the course of a four year college career.
Those accomplishments alone would be enough to fuel a lifetime of pride for the average man. Brock Lesnar, however, was just getting started.
The Next Big Thing...
Following his final year of college, Brock Lesnar was offered a developmental contract with Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Federation. Upon signing with the WWF, Lesnar made his move from amateur wrestling into the very different world of professional wrestling. As everyone knows by now, while it certainly requires a great deal of athletic ability, professional wrestling is not a legitimate contest.
Lesnar was initially sent to Ohio Valley Wrestling, which was the WWF's developmental territory, to hone his new craft prior to joining the main roster. Ironically enough, he would form a tag team with his former roommate from the University of Minnesota, Shelton Benjamin. The two had moderate success in OVW, but the success was short lived, as both men would be called up to the big leagues in short order.
On an episode of Monday Night Raw, the night after WrestleMania 18, Lesnar appeared from the crowd and laid waste to three wrestlers at once. Over the course of the next several months, Brock Lesnar would go from a relative unknown, to being christened as the company's "Next Big Thing."
At the WWF's (which was by this time rebranded as World Wrestling Entertainment) annual SummerSlam event, Lesnar was placed in the main event against The Rock for the Undisputed Championship. In what would turn out to be a match of the year candidate, Lesnar defeated The Rock, and became the youngest WWE Champion of all time.
In less than a year's time on the main roster, Brock Lesnar made it all the way to the top of the mountain, and defeated nearly every top star in the company: The Rock, Matt & Jeff Hardy, The Undertaker, and he even put an end to the final full-time run of "The Immortal" Hulk Hogan as well. In terms of success in WWE, Lesnar had achieved success more quickly than any star in the company's history.
Preparing for the long haul, Lesnar signed what was reportedly the largest contract in WWE and bought himself a private jet to alleviate some of the stress from the tremendous travel schedule.
Then he left.
Almost immediately after signing his new WWE contract, and after the purchase of the aforementioned million-dollar lear jet, Brock Lesnar decided he wasn't cut out for the life of a professional wrestler. Say what you will about the logistics behind walking away from a multimillion dollar yearly salary for a yet undecided future, however, once Lesnar made up his mind to leave, there was no talking him out of it.
Why did he leave?
To pursue a career in the National Football League.
After he finally gained his release from WWE, which forced him into agreeing to an incredible no-compete clause that would prevent him from signing with another wrestling company through the year 2010, Lesnar decided he was going to try out for the NFL. While Lesnar himself admitted that it would be a long shot for him to actually see playing time, he claimed that he didn't want to look back on his life at age 40 and wonder what could've been.
It would prove to be too long a shot.
Prior to the 2004 season, Lesnar actually was able to earn a spot as a defensive tackle on the practice squad for the Minnesota Vikings. While he possessed what his coaches referred to as "raw" talent, he eventually became the last man to be cut, prior to the beginning of the regular season.
With his NFL questions answered, he would look to make a return to the wacky world of sports entertainment, courting offers from New Japan Pro Wrestling. Unfortunately for Brock Lesnar, WWE's no-compete clause had other ideas.
Courting New Japan...
When all else fails, go with what you know. That was Brock Lesnar's train of thought upon falling short of his NFL aspirations, as he almost immediately went back to professional wrestling once that experiment was over.
As mentioned earlier, however, Lesnar signed a contract with WWE which prevented him from competing inside a non-WWE ring (including as a mixed martial artist) all the way until 2010. Disregading the clause, Lesnar decided to accept an offer from New Japan Pro Wrestling, where he resumed his sports entertainment career.
Almost immediately, Lesnar won the company's top prize, known as the IWGP Championship, and almost immediately he was involved in a lengthy court battle with WWE for violation of his no-compete clause.
Luckily for Lesnar, after months of negotiations that nearly saw him return to WWE, he was able to settle the matter out of court. In his recent autobiography, Death Clutch, he finally spoke about his court battle against WWE. Though he was prevented from revealing a particular dollar amount, he did say that the settlement cost him a great deal, but it allowed him to be completely free from the WWE umbrella.
Lesnar would continue to wrestle for New Japan through 2007, when he dropped the IWGP Championship to his former rival, Kurt Angle. In the end, Lesnar was forced to tap out to Angle's ankle lock submission.
It was his last match ever as a professional wrestler.
Stuck in the Far East...
Following his departure from New Japan Pro Wrestling, Brock Lesnar made yet another major change to his career path. This time, he set out to become the "Next Big Thing" in mixed martial arts. Though he'd actually been training with Greg Nelson at the Minnesota Martial Arts Academy for around a year by the time he left New Japan, his first fight wouldn't come until June of 2007.
Lesnar stated in multiple interviews during the buildup to his MMA debut that he wanted to find out what he could do in the Octagon with the top competition of the UFC. He claimed several times that he could either "do it, or [he] couldn't," with regard to facing the biggest names in the sport.
Dana White, however, wasn't as quick to jump on board the Lesnar Express, and balked at signing the former WWE Champion in the very beginning. Instead of climbing into the Octagon against a top ten heavyweight for his first MMA contest, Lesnar stepped into the K-1 ring, and fought a relatively unknown Min-Soo Kim.
In what is still the only "tune up" fight of Lesnar's career, he submitted Min-Soo Kim due to strikes in just over one minute of the very first round.
Following this performance, in October of 2007, it was announced that Lesnar would get his wish: Dana White and the UFC reached a deal that would officially bring Brock Lesnar into the company. His first fight was set for February of 2008, at UFC 81: Breaking Point, against former heavyweight champion, Frank Mir.
It was now time for the world to see if Lesnar "either could or couldn't," as he said.
It took Brock Lesnar approximately 15 seconds to secure the first takedown of his UFC career against Frank Mir during their match at UFC 81.
The former NCAA wrestling champion had no qualms with immediately using the strength for which he was known. In what was one of the most exciting single round fights of all time, Lesnar absolutely brutalized Mir for the first minute and 20 seconds of the contest. After securing the aforementioned takedown, Lesnar pummeled Mir on the ground before being ordered to stand by referee Steve Mazagatti, who would go on to deduct a point from the Minnesota native for an illegal blow to the back of MIr's head.
Many fans' first though was that Mazagatti's stoppage signaled the end of the fight. Ironically, in the end, that's pretty much what it did. Unfortunately for Brock Lesnar, the end of the fight would not come in his favor.
When the fight resumed, Lesnar dropped his opponent with two rapid-fire right hands and quickly regained a dominant position on the ground. While he was certainly winning the fight, Lesnar at times looked like the proverbial fish out of water, not knowing exactly what to do once he attained the top position.
It cost him.
While Lesnar was busy trying to figure out what to do next, Mir had already set his plan in motion, placing his much larger opponent into a textbook knee bar and forcing him to tap out at 1:30 of the first round.
Some MMA fans rejoiced at the downfall of the "fake" wrestler to a "true" fighter. Other fans cried foul, claiming that the referee had screwed up the entire outcome by standing the fighters up mid-round.
Whatever the case, people were talking.
Climbing the Ranks...
In spite of a disappointing loss to Frank Mir in his UFC debut, Brock Lesnar would not be deterred. In fact, the announcement that Lesnar would face another former heavyweight champion (the first-ever, to be exact) in Mark "The Hammer" Coleman, came at the very next pay per view. The two wrestlers were scheduled to face off at UFC 87: Seek and Destroy.
As is often the case within the world of MMA, Coleman wound up being injured during his training camp, and was forced out of the match with Lesnar. In his stead, UFC matchmakers placed Heath Herring into the bout, and a new main event was announced.
This time, Lesnar would not be denied.
After coming right out of the gate with a flying knee of all things, Lesnar rocked Herring with a straight right hand approximately 10 seconds into the fight. The fight wound up going the distance, but there was never a question of who was winning, as Lesnar absolutely dominated Herring for the entire 15 minutes. His first UFC victory was secured via unanimous decision.
It was later revealed that Lesnar's first punch had broken Herring's orbital bone, and "The Texas Crazy Horse" would literally never recover. Not only did he never once fight for the UFC again, but after his loss to Lesnar, Heath Herring never fought anywhere again, period.
That's what happens, man... that's what happens.
After his impressive victory over Herring, a vast majority of MMA fans were outraged when Dana White announced that Brock Lesnar's next fight would be against Randy "The Natural" Couture for the UFC heavyweight championship.
Regardless of whether they were outraged or elated, people were again talking about Brock Lesnar. To further this point, his title bout against Randy Couture (deserving or otherwise) at UFC 91 would pull in over one million buys on pay per view. The event was nearly three years ago and still ranks in the top three highest grossing UFC pay per views of all time. Obviously, a lot of credit goes to his fan-favorite opposition, but the fact remains that Lesnar was officially "money" in the MMA world.
Once again, Lesnar would prove his critics wrong and unseat "The Natural" as the new heavyweight champion of the world. As Joe Rogan loves to say about every single champion ever crowned, "the Brock Lesnar era" had begun.
Staying on Top...
Brock Lesnar's first order of business upon winning the heavyweight championship was, naturally, to avenge the only loss of his career. Almost immediately, matchmakers put together Lesnar's first title defense against Frank Mir.
Lesnar/Mir II would be a much different story from the first encounter.
Originally slated for UFC 98, the highly promoted rematch between Lesnar and Mir was eventually rescheduled for UFC 100 after Mir's knee was injured during training. Fans were restless to see who would emerge victorious, however, in retrospect, having this bout at a landmark event like UFC 100 was far more fitting.
After being touted as the biggest rematch of all time leading up to the heavyweight collision, the main event certainly did not disappoint.
Lesnar again set out looking for the takedown almost right from the opening bell, and again, it didn't take long for the champion to find it. Unfortunately for Mir, Lesnar had apparently studied up a bit on how to prevent his skilled opponent from locking in yet another submission from his back, simply outclassing the challenger at every turn. Mir would ultimately find himself on the receiving end of a vicious knock out, following a particularly nasty display of ground and pound by Lesnar.
The loss had officially been avenged, and Brock Lesnar was officially the undisputed UFC heavyweight champion.
He was also officially a victim of diverticulitis
In Sickness and in Health...
You'd think that, after avenging the only loss of his career, not to mention becoming the undisputed heavyweight kingpin in MMA, Brock Lesnar would be rolling in the glory.
Instead, he was laying in the hospital.
Prior to his scheduled title defense at UFC 106 against a then-undefeated Shane Carwin, Lesnar fell violently ill and found himself being the one forced to withdraw from a fight. Announcements on what, exactly, Lesnar's condition was went back and forth. First, it was mononucleosis. Then it wasn't. Then it was again. Finally, after much confusion, and after receiving what he called "third world treatment" at a Canadian hospital, it was reported that the UFC champion actually had a severe case of the intestinal disease diverticulitis.
"He's not well, and he's not going to be well any time soon," were Dana White's exact words.
With Lesnar out, the UFC scheduled a bout between Frank Mir and Shane Carwin to determine an interim champion. Mir again found himself asleep in the Octagon, and Shane Carwin was crowned the disputed heavyweight champion. Immediately following the fight Lesnar himself would appear, claiming that Carwin was holding a "make believe" belt, and that the two would meet in the summer of 2010 to decide who the legitimate champion was.
The title unification bout between Lesnar and Carwin finally took place at UFC 116. Once again, Brock Lesnar made history, headlining yet another pay per view card that took in over a million buys. The match itself lived up to the heavy expectations.
For the first time ever, Lesnar was easily handled by Carwin throughout the first round of the fight. After catching a hard shot to the jaw, Lesnar hit the ground and remained there for nearly the entire round. Carwin, however, was unable to finish the fight despite landing a plethora of unanswered shots to a downed Lesnar.
Once the bell sounded for the start of round two, which was highlighted by a wink and a smile from both men, it was a different story.
Carwin had apparently gassed himself out throwing haymakers at Lesnar for the first five minutes of the fight, and was easily taken down at the beginning of the second stanza. Amazingly, Lesnar didn't look for another ground and pound victory. Instead he elected to attempt an arm triangle choke on Carwin. A short way into the second round, he did exactly that, as Carwin eventually tapped out to the choke.
Lesnar was awarded a "Submission of the Night" bonus for his efforts. Carwin had suffered his first defeat, and hardcore MMA fans around the world had their collective jaws hanging, as the former "fake" wrestler was once again the undisputed champion of the world.
Falling from Grace...
Only a couple of months following his amazing comeback victory over Shane Carwin, Brock Lesnar found himself standing across the Octagon from another one of the most feared strikers in the UFC, not to mention another undefeated heavyweight prospect, Cain Velasquez.
Again, Lesnar would be forced to deal with a vicious first round assault from his challenger. This time, however, his opponent wouldn't succumb to an insufficient gas tank, as Velasquez would go on to dominate Lesnar and win the UFC championship.
Finally, for the first time since his debut, hardcore MMA fans had the chance to cheer following the finish of a Lesnar fight. Unlike the first Mir fight, though, Velasquez would leave no question as to who the true winner was. He steamrolled Lesnar and left him in a heap on the canvas, plain and simple.
After losing his title, Lesnar signed on to coach the latest season of The Ultimate Fighter, opposite Junior dos Santos. Originally, the two were scheduled to meet after the show had finished its run, with the winner being crowned the number one contender to Velasquez's heavyweight championship.
Lesnar's intestinal disease, unfortunately, had different plans.
For the second time in as many years, Lesnar went down with a severe case of diverticulitis. Dos Santos would go on to defeat Shane Carwin in Lesnar's stead, and would be named the number one contender. Following a rather invasive surgery to correct his intestinal disorder, Lesnar's future was in doubt.
Several articles were written claiming that Lesnar would never be the same and that he was close to retirement. Things were looking pretty bleak for the former champion when out of nowhere, Dana White made the blockbuster announcement that Lesnar would face the newly signed Alistair Overeem on December 30, 2011.
What the Future Holds...
After what has proven to be quite the roller coaster ride over the past year, Brock Lesnar is back.
Obviously, the former champion is sticking to his guns, and refuses to face anything less than top competition. Not only that, but Lesnar is once again going head to head with one of the top stand up fighters in all of mixed martial arts in Alistair Overeem.
His pride may yet prove to be foolish, as Overeem may prove to be too much for the one time "Next Big Thing," but one thing is for certain: No matter what the outcome of the fight, whether he wins and goes on to recapture his former glory at the top of the UFC mountain, or he loses and simply vanishes into thin air...
... it has certainly been one hell of a ride for Brock Lesnar.