Opinion: The UFC and the Absurdity of a Fedor-Lesnar Fight
By Jesse Heitz
UFC President Dana White made waves this week when he publicly gauged fan interest in a bout between Brock Lesnar and Fedor “The Last Emperor” Emelianenko. This move has struck many as bizarre and unusual, if not horribly outdated.
After all, the UFC generally isn’t in the habit of putting on what one could call a “sideshow” fight, or to be polite, a relatively unimportant fight. Sure, the UFC has had its indiscretions with what could be labeled as sideshow bouts in the Zuffa era, such as the James Toney vs. Randy Couture fight, but even that fight had a point to it. Certainly it was to be a money maker, but it had a deeper, more driven purpose, which was to clearly demonstrate the superiority of mixed martial arts in relation to other combat sports.
Yet, with the proposed Fedor Emelianenko vs. Brock Lesnar fight, we have an entirely different scenario. This fight’s purpose is simply to draw Pay-Per-View buys and sell tickets. I suppose one could argue that such is purpose of all of the UFC’s fights, but this proposed fight has no other purpose than to give fans three rounds of entertainment – perhaps five.
Three or four years ago this fight would have made sense. Fedor was still running up his incredibly impressive “unbeaten” streak, while Lesnar was still electrifying fans as the UFC’s “Next Big Thing”. Now in late 2012, such a fight has absolutely no gravity whatsoever. Without question it would be a sideshow bout with little relevance.
Perhaps more importantly, putting on such a fight would seriously violate the UFC’s business model and what it has striven to do – bring the sport into the mainstream by highlighting the intensely competitive nature of MMA, and the premier caliber of its fighters. A Fedor vs. Lesnar bout would go against the grain by showcasing two past their prime fighters in their mid-30’s in a one-off bout that had no title implications.
Realistically, Lesnar wouldn’t be able to partake for eight more months, as he’s still under contract with the WWE which, should such a fight ever materialize, would give him some 18 months of ring rust. Furthermore, Lesnar hasn’t had a win inside The Octagon since July 2010 when he defeated Shane Carwin at UFC 116. Meanwhile, Fedor is transitioning into retirement and, between 2010 and 2011, his eroding skills showed when he suffered three straight defeats at the hands of Fabricio Werdum, Antonio “Big Foot” Silva and Dan Henderson, who is not a legitimate heavyweight.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always enjoyed watching Fedor fight, and even Lesnar for that matter. This was indeed a fight I wanted to see once upon a time, and I’d certainly watch if it were to materialize. However, I don’t think that an irrelevant bout between two non-contenders is worth the incredible sums of money it would take to make it happen, much less worth the watered-down card that would result from the headliners’ lavish salaries.
Moreover, I’d hate to see the UFC, which has worked tirelessly to establish itself as a no nonsense promotion, descend into freak show territory as various rival promotions had recklessly done in the past.