Sure, Lesnar is simply following in the well-worn path of Tank and Tito (and to a lesser extent Frank Shamrock) as far as generating a name and selling PPVs is concerned. The WWE is like an MBA program in baby faces v heels. And it certainly helps that Brock both understands his role and doesn’t need to stretch his acting abilities. If he has any trouble getting into character he can just stare into the mirror and contemplate the cock on his chest. But Tank, Tito, and Shamrock were pre-TUF era fighters when the UFC was losing money hand-over-fist and its lowbrowness got it banned in most states.
All of the current mainstream acceptance along with its corollary money and fame can go away very quickly. It’s been ten years since Pro-Wrestling was huge enough that The Rock could cross over. It’s been about three since Texas Hold ‘Em was hot. The public is fickle, and MMA is not the first combat sport to try and break boxing’s stranglehold on the public’s imagination. (Remember the PKA? Not so much.)
The difference between celebrating the joys of victory and mocking the agony of your opponent’s defeat may seem like a fine line. But it certainly wasn’t to Tank Abbott’s crew in UFC 45 when Cabbage taunted their patron, creating the UFC’s first bench-clearing brawl and appalling even Joe Rogen. How many more times can someone like Scott Jansen’s brother head butt Phil Baroni after a fight without the casual CBS-type viewer assuming that MMA fighters are not the highly trained athletes that they are but actually “animals” (an accusation I’ve heard many times since I’ve started covering this sport)?
Lesnar’s victory was sufficiently one-sided that Herring’s demoralized entourage held back. But I doubt this will be the case in the future, especially if he fights a Brazilian. (Think Coleman v Rua.) A skilled heel instinctively knows where that fine line is between provocation and parole. In his younger days Ali certainly did. We’ll see about Lesnar.
In the short term, the UFC would do well to keep a tight lasso on their current crazy horseback mountain rider. Gary Shaw’s EliteXC kept pushing for Tyson-bites-Holyfield moments and look where it got him and his network program.
Athletes pretending to be classy and care about disadvantaged children and the troops overseas when all they really want is more money and more groupies is as boringly hypocritical in MMA as it is in the NFL, the MBA, or the NBA. But it’s how the game is played in America. There is plenty of time to fly the true colors and keep it real when/if MMA secures a permanent rotation on Sports Center.
PS Given that this is my first Fightlinker opinion piece, I fell compelled to add: “Shit, Fuck, Piss, Cunt, Cocksucker, Motherfucker, Tits.” Happy?