(As the MMA world awakens from a summer slumber of injuries, suspensions and event cancellations, we’re beefing up the amount of content we’re going to be offering here at Fightlinker. Part of that includes the addition of a special monthly guest blogger handpicked by yours truly. This month’s guest blogger is Dan Brooks, whose CombatBlog website is the political equivalent of Fightlinker, if Fightlinker were well written and full of insightful thoughts.)
Brock Lesnar’s manager has officially put the kibosh on any plans for a superfight with Fedor Emelianenko — an idea Dana White was just casually talking about anyway. When he asked fans whether they would like to see the Last Emperor fight the Lats Emperor, White wasn’t suggesting an actual bout he might actually make. He was proposing a thought experiment: wouldn’t you like to see the Pride era soccer kick the modern-day UFC?
It is a potent question. If you ask the casual fan about it, he will respond by asking what a Pride is. Then he will shout “stand ’em up!” as loud as he can. That’s the whole problem. For the longtime MMA fan, Brock Lesnar represents the transition from weirdo niche sport to nationwide phenomenon. He made the sport bigger, and in so doing he necessarily diluted it.
Lesnar is the genetic lottery winner who got a shot at the UFC heavyweight belt by winning WWE championships. He was a fearsome competitor right up until he wasn’t, and he lives as proof that skill at fighting is not the only thing contemporary MMA cares about. Lesnar put butts in seats. In terms of understanding the sport, those butts came with heads wedged deeply inside them, and so for diehard fans Lesnar also represents an inevitable betrayal.
Fedor, on the other hand, is the high pure sport. He was the finest heavyweight of what many of us remember as the finest era of mixed martial arts. Never mind that the pool of athletes was much smaller then—so small that a 240-pound heavyweight could go undefeated for eight years on the strength of arm bars and hooks. The important thing is that he was all substance over style. Fedor had so little style that it was his style; he preferred fights to interviews and never played his persona for an audience—possibly because there was so little audience then.
Wouldn’t you like to go back to those days? Wouldn’t you like to see Fedor pop Lesnar’s elbow, just so you could watch guys in RVCA shirts numbly try to pronounce his last name?
Fedor v Lesnar is the impossible dream everyone wants to see, as White demonstrated last week. As questions go, it’s like asking whether you would like to see Nirvana enter a battle of the bands against Ke$ha, or if you want your parents to get back together. The question might as well have been “how many of you guys are kind of older now?” As his promotion grows only more successful, White knows the answer will always be yes.