Brock Lesnar

Late 2008 and the first half of 2009 was a great time for Brock Lesnar. Three fights into his MMA career and he was stood across the Octagon from Hall of Famer Randy Couture. Eight minutes and seven seconds of fighting later and he was sat on top of the Octagon fence, looking out upon a stunned crowd. Lesnar had done the unthinkable – not only had he beaten a legend, but he became the UFC heavyweight champion in the process.

Brock Lesnar’s signing with the UFC in February 2008 was a talking point for many reasons. The former college wrestler had made his name in the cartoonish world of pro wrestling, but his athletic credentials were bona fide. A national-level freestyle wrestler and fearsome physical specimen with a love of competition, Lesnar tired of pro wrestling and left to pursue other endeavors: first football and later MMA. Would he be able to compete in an unforgiving arena such as the Octagon?

The former wrestler wasn’t unprepared for his first UFC bout, a now memorable encounter with Frank Mir. The tussle with Mir was actually his second MMA fight; Lesnar had first made his MMA debut in 2007, though few people took notice. His first fight was against the unheralded, undersized and overmatched Korean fighter Min Soo Kim, and he won easily with what would become his trademark: ground ‘n pound.

Though Lesnar lost to Mir in his UFC debut, the defeat only inspired him to work harder. Already a notoriously fierce competitor, he went back to the drawing board and emerged a better, wiser fighter. He trounced Heath Herring in August 2008, smashing the durable veteran over three rounds. The critics and naysayers were notably silent; Brock’s arrival as a UFC fighter was complete.

The next step in Lesnar’s career may have been seen by some as a step too far. In only his fourth MMA fight (the main event of UFC 91, held in November 2008) he challenged for the UFC heavyweight title against one of the greatest fighters of all time, the legendary Randy Couture.

Lesnar’s second-round stoppage of Couture showed that he deserved to be classed among the elite fighters in the world. His rematch with Frank Mir at UFC 100 made him the number-one heavyweight in MMA.

Though the latter half of 2009 did not go well for him – health problems have left him sidelined until further notice – Lesnar enjoyed about as much success as a fighter could hope for in the months previous. He beat a legend, became a champion, won revenge over the man who handed him his first loss, and established himself as top dog in the most prestigious promotion on the planet.

To become the undisputed UFC heavyweight champion in only five professional contests isn’t just remarkable, it will surely go down in history as one of the greatest sporting achievements of all time.

Originally published in Issue 60 of Fighters Only.