Brock Lesnar is no Kimbo Slice, but Lesnar, an unlikely UFC heavyweight champion, has a lot to prove.
By beating Frank Mir, Lesnar, hopes to completely break free of his World Wrestling Entertainment past and earn the respect of hard-core UFC fans.
Skeptics are everywhere.
Saturday night's UFC 100 will be a career-maker or breaker for Lesnar, an athlete who has a history of melting in big-time situations.
Saturday night's UFC 100 is expected to be the most watched show in the company's history and far surpass every WWE pay-per-view ever held, and all but a couple boxing events headlined by Oscar de la Hoya. It's a financial cash cow for Las Vegas, and the event is a mini-Super Bowl for advertisers looking to reach young men.
The man at the center of UFC's biggest fight is Lesnar, who at 27 walked out on the WWE because he got tired of the hectic traveling and flight schedule, and he wanted to pursue a seasonal career in the National Football League.
In the WWE, Lesnar got the royal treatment. He was given the world title on several occasions. WWE brass even let Lesnar score a clean victory over "The Rock," in symbolic pass the torch moment to Lesnar, billed as "The Next Big Thing." Lesnar got victories over the WWE's biggest stars, including John Cena, the Undertaker and Kurt Angle. While athletically gifted, the hot-headed Lesnar never became the star the WWE wanted.
In fact, the end of Lesnar's WWE career was marked but two public embarrassments. In 2003, Lesnar botched the ending of his WrestleMania match with Angle. Lesnar was supposed to jump off the top rope and flip forward in air doing an entire 360. In wrestling vernacular, the move is called a "shooting-star press." But Lesnar didn't complete the turn, and instead landed on his head and neck, suffering a concussion.
Angle, an Olympic Gold Medalist, and one of the greatest WWE wrestlers of all-time, had to improvise the ending, because Lesnar was essentially out cold after the move.
In his final match in the WWE, Lesnar broke character in the ring, and famously delivered an obscene gesture to the 18,000 people in Madison Square Garden. The fans, hearing that Lesnar was going to leave the WWE to pursue a NFL career, booed Lesnar, and his opponent, Bill Goldberg, through the entire match. Under the pressure, Lesnar melted, and the match between the two was terrible.
After three years in the WWE, he left and tried out for the Minnesota Vikings as a walk-on. But the Vikings cut Lesnar because he wasn't as quick as they would have liked him to be as a defensive lineman. No other NFL teams picked him, and Lesnar declined an offer to play in NFL Europe.
After a failed NFL attempt, Lesnar had little options in the way of sports. His appearance at a New Japan wrestling show in 2005 prompted a lawsuit by the WWE, who let Lesnar out of his WWE contract early, with the understanding that Lesnar would not appear at any MMA or wrestling related events.
The two fought it out in court before an agreement was eventually reached that allowed Lesnar to pursue wrestling or MMA elsewhere.
Lesnar won his first MMA fight in Japan. His name recognition among WWE fans prompted the UFC to sign him. While semi-experienced MMA fighters were battling for their lives for a UFC contract on the reality show "The Ultimate Fighter," Lesnar, because he would be a huge pay per view draw, was handed a contract.
Lesnar lost his first UFC bout, by submission, tapping out to an ankle lock. He bounced back beating Heath Herring in a three-round decision. After two unremarkable performances, the UFC, gave him a title shot against Randy Couture, a man widely regarded as the greatest MMA star of all time. Lesnar, 31, TKO'd Couture, 45.
In a script that not even the WWE would write for him, after three UFC fights, Lesnar was somehow the UFC heavyweight champion.
But on Saturday, Lesnar will have to leave the hype in the dressing room and fight the same man who forced him to tap out in his first UFC match: Frank Mir.
It's a colossal battle and Lesnar has a lot to prove. Of course, he's miles above Kimbo Slice, who was similarly hyped before getting knocked out in 14 seconds, in terms of a talent. But Lesnar, who has undoubtedly had the easiest ride to stardom of any recent UFC fighter, must prove that he can beat a man, Mir, in his prime, not an aging legend at the end of his career. More importantly, he must also prove on Saturday night that he has the mental strength and muscle to endure a high-pressure, big match situation, and live up to that WWE name he was given years ago. One only has so many opportunities to be "The Next Big Thing."
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