UFC 100 is coming up, and with it, a mea culpa. I didn’t give MMA its due. I thought it was a fad. But the premier promotion is up to their 100th event with no signs of slowing, and I have to admit that at this point in time, MMA is healthier than boxing.
So, as someone less than immersed in the scene, I have to wonder if MMA fans aren’t disappointed in the main event for what’s being billed as UFC’s “biggest event ever.” Brock Lesnar, he of three career UFC bouts and a background in fake fighting, is your UFC heavyweight champion and main event headliner. Does this piss on everything MMA’s worked so hard to become?
Lesnar is going up against Frank Mir, who beat him handily in Lesnar’s debut. So there’s a history behind the bout. But Lesnar wouldn’t be here if not for his “fluke” victory over Randy Couture for the belt last fall, and Lesnar wouldn’t have been there without his WWE name recognition. How many 1-1 fighters get title shots?
Everyone agrees that Kimbo Slice was a sideshow. Someone who could draw the casual fan’s attention, sure, but not an accomplished or trained fighter. Is Lesnar in that same category? Does the diehard MMA fan resent his presence in a showcase event?
And does it matter? MMA has a solid fanbase, but can’t make that next step without the casual fan. So if some more people buy the PPV just because they’ve heard of Lesnar from his WWE days, and some of them like what they see and stick around, is that a bad thing?
MMA purists like the “underground” nature of their sport. But there’s a trade-off. They can’t remain an exclusive club who “gets it” if the sport is to grow and thrive. Maybe Brock Lesnar is the crossover star needed. Or maybe he’s an affront to 16 years of UFC events. I’m asking you.