LAS VEGAS -- Even UFC president Dana White had to laugh before he introduced Brock Lesnar at a press conference in the main lobby of the MGM Grand that shut down check-in counters for nearly an hour Thursday afternoon.
"I never thought I'd say this," said White with a smile. "But fighting for the heavyweight title with a record of 2-1 ... "
Yeah, that's right. Lesnar, one half of what White is calling the "biggest fight in UFC history" on Saturday has only won two MMA fights and is just 1-1 in his brief career in the UFC. While he is a 5-to-4 favorite in his championship match with Randy Couture, he is easily the biggest enigma the sport has seen since Kimbo Slice -- and we all know how that experiment panned out.
Sure, Lesnar is an accomplished wrestler and a tremedous athlete. He was a four-time All-American, two-time Big Ten Champion and an NCAA heavyweight wrestling champion. And while pro wrestling might be as scripted as The Hills, it's worth pointing out that he was a three-time WWE champion and the youngest world champion in the company's history. He then went on play for the Minnesota Vikings before being a late cut before the start of the 2004 season.
None of that, of course, matters in the UFC. In fact, it holds about as much weight as any one of Kimbo's backyard knockouts once you step into the Octagon. (Slice, by the way, was 3-0 in his first three MMA fights before being exposed last month.) While White is banking that Lesnar will be able to thrive in the UFC, he'll be the first to admit that he has no idea if he'll be any good.
"I don't know. Brock doesn't even know," White said. "When he came to me last year he told me, 'I'm either going to be good or I'm not going to be good,' but he wasn't going to know until he fought the best."
It's partly what makes Saturday's fight so intriguing. We will either watch Couture expose Lesnar as an over-hyped pro wrestler unable to make the transition into the UFC, which is the way he looked when Frank Mir beat him by submission early in the first round in February, or it will be a changing of the guard in the heavyweight division, with Lesnar establishing himself as the company's new cash cow, which is what Lesnar looked like he would become after dominating Heath Herring three months ago.
As much as White ragged on the hype machine surrounding Kimbo, it's clear that even he isn't above pushing an unproven fighter into a championship fight and a main event that he doesn't deserve at this point of his career. It makes sense though. He's expecting a sellout crowd at the MGM Grand Garden Arena and 1.2 million pay-per-view buys, which would make it the most successful UFC event to date. That certainly wouldn't be the case if Couture were fighting Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira or Frank Mir.
So what do you think Lesnar will end up being in the UFC? Do you see him being the next Kimbo Slice, a popular novelty act that will eventually be exposed, or the next big thing in the heavyweight division?