Feature: Steve Anderson On The Passion Of The UFC Champ


I was at Madison Square Garden for WrestleMania XX. The show featured, among other matches, the final bout of Brock Lesnar, who was leaving WWE. Ironically, he would be facing another wrestler who had one foot out the WWE door — Bill Goldberg.

To say the fans dictated the match would be an understatement. Aware of the two wrestlers’ decisions, they booed and booed. And when they were done, they booed some more.

Goldberg never had a passion for the business, so his loss was WWE’s gain. But they invested time and money into Brock Lesnar. He was vaulted to the top of the food chain only to forsake his push and ask for his release. Lacking passion for the biz, he decided to make an unlikely career jump. The “Next Big Thing” wanted to play football for the Minnesota Vikings.

Wearing number 69 (leave it alone), Lesnar bombed and was soon cut from the Vikings.

To me, Lesnar represented the height of an ungrateful, spoiled athlete. He was given the moon and the stars, but it was not enough. He took his ball and went home. I was disgusted and actually rejoiced when he fell on his face as a football player. I greeted his entry into UFC with equally mocking disdain — if there is such a thing.

Well, time to admit I was wrong.

Even though he stomped out of an ESPN interview when asked about steroids (later, he carefully stated that he never failed a “drug test”), Lesnar has matured since he bolted from WWE nearly five years ago. He has stripped away all the frills and excesses of his life to start over again. In mixed martial arts.

After three (reader correction: four) fights, he is the UFC heavyweight champion. No small accomplishment. Randy Couture is no slouch. It was a true test for Lesnar. Hardcore UFC fans greeted his entry into their sport with — I guess the term would be mocking disdain. He was from a make-believe world of choreographed moves and pre-determined match endings. Surely, he could not beat UFC’s best.

Well, he did. In less than two rounds. And the UFC faithful booed as loudly as that crowd in Madison Square Garden.

Yeah, you can call it luck. You can talk about Couture’s age. And you can boo the outcome. But face it. UFC hit the jackpot with Lesnar, even though they may not have realized it initially.

Lesnar is cocky, arrogant and comes across as a jerk. But he has developed a heart and passion that eluded him in WWE and the NFL. He is focused and determined to silence the naysayers. Mind you, he never will. The tag of “former professional wrestler” will follow him wherever he goes.

I know that this may be the high point of Lesnar’s career. He may lose a rematch, but it will be a rematch that is already highly anticipated and will make money. This UFC career peak is something that few expected. For one night, Lesnar was the best. And not because he was handed it on a silver platter by a booking committee. He got it through guts and determination. Something I thought Brock Lesnar lacked. He saw the obstacles in front of him. Instead of running away, as he did back in 2004, he stood up and faced it. And knocked the sh*t out of it too.

For UFC, they have a high-profile champion. Lesnar is money. Lesnar vs. Couture II, III, and IV is money.

And this writer has never been more wrong about someone. Now, if the UFC faithful could fess up to that.

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