The last time Brock Lesnar stepped foot inside a mixed martial arts cage, he was seen slumped over against the fence after Dutch kickboxing star Alistair Overeem liver kicked him into oblivion. Lesnar was coming off a 14 month layoff due to complications from diverticulitis, and was obviously rusty stepping in the cage. After a few battering knees to the body from Overeem, it became abundantly clear that it was only a matter of time before the contest would be stopped. The agony that Lesnar displayed after being kicked in the liver was evident, but the innumerable questions that plagued his mind quickly thereafter, were not.
The star that was Brock Lesnar can be difficult to explain for people who were not there to witness it. Much like Ronda Rousey, Brock commanded attention but unlike Rousey, it was almost for ambiguous reasons. Lesnar had the look; a freak specimen with Adonis DNA, he had strange medieval-like tattoos that looked like they came out of a Slayer album cover, and he was a freight train of power and violence. For all his attributes though, Lesnar was not much of a talker, the silver tongued skills of a Ronda Rousey or Chael Sonnen were lost on him, but it did not matter. The numbers the man generated were unprecedented, he almost instantly became the biggest draw of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, and he did it, for the most part, just being himself. The pro wrestler brought in big dollars to professional prize fighting by not holding back his persona and competing to the best of his ability.
Yesterday Brock Lesnar announced on ESPN, that he will never step into an MMA cage again and will remain with his current employer, the WWE. Reactions throughout the mixed martial arts community were mixed, some disappointed, some thrilled, some downright apathetic, but it was the things he stated that made this announcement strike a chord.
Desire; it is a word that is embedded in all people, a word essential for fighters. When a prize fighter finds his/her self at the twilight of their career, the question is always asked, “How badly do they want it? What more do they have to fight for?” Brock Lesnar had the desire, he wanted to prove himself, he wanted to be the best in the world. The common wisdom was, Lesnar was not happy with the WWE and he wanted to return to MMA to fulfill his true desire to compete and right the ship after two consecutive TKO losses to current heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez, and Alistair Overeem, and although that seemed to be the mindset and even began training to prepare himself for a bout, it did not come to pass. All in all, the announcement that Brock Lesnar would not be returning to the Octagon wasn’t too shocking, what was shocking was his reasons as to why he wouldn’t.
Vengeance, redemption, validation all the reasons in the world for a former champion and wrecking machine like Brock Lesnar to return were not enough. Lesnar stated that he signed his WWE deal because just imagining walking into a mixed martial arts cage was “like a bad dream” and “it didn’t feel right,” those are some strangely disturbing, yet refreshing comments to come out of a fighter’s mouth. How many current fighters can one think of that are out of their prime and should have already considered retirement a couple of fights ago? How many are nervous and scared to death to step in a cage to get into a fist fight? How many lie to themselves and say that they’re better than their last fight and “this new young guy can’t beat a veteran like me?” Strong feeling the answer to those previous questions are, quite a few. That is where Brock Lesnar shines through, sure he has a tons of money, sure he has more options other than fighting, and of course he did some remarkable things in his short stint inside of mixed martial arts that very few fighters, including himself, might ever replicate. However, Lesnar’s uncompromising honesty left him making a decision that was intelligent and gave him peace of mind, those two phrases don’t live in simultaneous continuity in the mind of most fighters. Mixed martial arts fighters and spectators alike can learn a great deal from Lesnar’s statement, this is a sport of all or nothing, there’s no room for doubt, and very little for concern.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with being dedicated and confident in MMA, in fact, it is vital, however where is the point of no return? When is enough truly enough? The saying goes, “fighting is a sport, but it is not a game,” how very true, yet, it seems that people perpetually try to play the odds, only to end up getting played themselves. Lesnar is the best example of when to say enough, so instead of criticizing and speculating, let’s respect the man, his decision, and value the mixed martial artists there are now. The Jose Aldos, Jon Jones, Ronda Rouseys, Demetrious Johnsons, Chris Weidmans only come by once in a lifetime and any fight can be their last, let’s treasure them and appreciate every strike thrown, every takedown attempted, every submission applied, because no others have done it with the skill and majesty that they have.