The UFC have been faced with the challenge of tying replace the star-power of former heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar for almost two-years. This is a task which has proven to be up to this point impossible for the biggest MMA promotion in the world.
It is interesting to hear MMA analysts and fans talk about the rise of the UFC. How did the UFC break out and become the global conglomerate it is today? Some will tell you it was the Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar fight that did it. Some will tell you it was Ken Shamrock vs. Tito Ortiz 3 that did it. Some will tell you it was the Spike TV deal that did it. The answer you never hear is Brock Lesnar and an objective look into the past will prove that.
We are just days away from what some are calling the biggest heavyweight fight in UFC history. We are weeks away from what Dana White is calling the biggest fight in UFC history. Yet none of these or any fights other than Sonnen vs. Silva II have generated any kind of the buzz you’d feel when Brock Lesnar was fighting. I am not just talking about Brock’s title fights but any Brock fight in general. The amount of attention he generated for a fight was truly something special.
I have written about Brock’s buyrates in the past but they can’t be understated. One fight since Lesnar left has been able to break one million buys (according to reports). Take a look at the top ten UFC buyrates in the history of the company and one name keeps popping up over and over again…Brock Lesnar.
1 Jul 11, 2009 UFC 100: Lesnar vs. Mir 2 1,600,000
2 Jul 3, 2010 UFC 116: Lesnar vs. Carwin 1,160,000
3 Dec 30, 2006 UFC 66: Liddell vs. Ortiz 2 1,050,000
4 May 29, 2010 UFC 114: Rampage vs. Evans 1,050,000
5 Oct 23, 2010 UFC 121: Lesnar vs. Velasquez 1,050,000
6 Nov 15, 2008 UFC 91: Couture vs. Lesnar 1,010,000
7 Dec 27, 2008 UFC 92: The Ultimate 2008 1,000,000
8 Jul 7, 2012 UFC 148: Silva vs. Sonnen II 1,000,000
9 Jan 31, 2009 UFC 94: St-Pierre vs. Penn 2 920,000
10 Aug 8, 2009 UFC 101: Declaration 850,000
Brock Lesnar is responsible for four of the top six buyrates in UFC history. He owns the record for the top two. Not only was he in the biggest fight of all-time at UFC 100, no fight has even come close to matching that level of interest since. Sure there have been much better fighters but none have had the ability to connect with the casual fan base like Brock Lesnar did.
The irony here is that Lesnar is still not given credit for what he did for the UFC by analysts and fans. Many will argue that he doesn’t belong in the UFC Hall of Fame. Those people just don’t get it. You can’t teach the charisma that Brock Lesnar had in the octagon. He was just a very special star. His willingness and ability to sell a fight is something that 95% of the UFC roster still doesn’t understand the concept. Tell me one fighter that has punched a wall during a countdown special other than Brock?
Take a look at the top stars in the UFC today. Jon Jones, Anderson Silva, Georges St-Pierre are probably the guys you’d put in a tier above everyone else. As great as these fighters are none of them understand how to sell fight like Brock did. Well Anderson does as he showed with the second Sonnen fight but he just isn’t willing to do it. It’s nice to have these great fighters on their roster but I bet that it kills them that none of them come even close to getting the attention that Brock did as a fighter.
You can say it was the WWE connection and that it was all wrestling fans jumping over to see Brock but you’d be wrong. Brock certainly isn’t drawing those numbers now as a pro wrestler so you’d be wrong. These weren’t all wrestling fans paying to see Brock, these were fans that wanted to see Brock Lesnar in a right fight, slug it out with another heavyweight.
Finding another heavyweight is easy. Finding another star isn’t easy but it happens from time to time in the UFC. Finding another ex-WWE star to put in the octagon is even easier. Finding another Brock Lesnar has proven to be as elusive as finding Bigfoot.