Is it silly and pointless to discuss the title of “best athlete in the world”? Yeah, it is. But I will say this: If someone put a gun to my head and forced me to name the best athlete in the world, I’d say Brock Lesnar’s name about 30 times before it ever occurred to me to mention someone else.
Last night, he arm-triangled the life out of Shane Carwin, who was supposed to be the guy, finally, who Lesnar couldn’t push around. He was as big as Lesnar, hit as hard as Lesnar, and like Lesnar, had an outstanding wrestling pedigree. By a wide margin, he was also the more experienced fighter, having worked his way up from the smaller promotions and came into the fight with a sparkling 12-0 record.
And Lesnar beat him. With a freakin’ arm triangle, of all things.
But last night’s fight isn’t what I want to talk about. Lesnar the MMA fighter isn’t even what I want to talk about. Lesnar the phenomenon, Lesnar the baddest man on the planet, Lesnar the insane athlete you really should make an effort to watch because guys like this don’t come around very often … that’s what I want to talk about.
Let’s take a step back, and big picture, look at everything this guy has done athletically.
At the end of his high school wrestilng career, he didn’t get a single scholarship offer. So he took the Junior College route. As a freshman, he was an All-American. As a sophomore, he was national champion.
I’m thinking someone should’ve probably given him a scholarship.
From there, the Minnesota Golden Gophers did bring him in, but how would Lesnar do against D-1 competition, particularly in the powerful Big 10? As a junior, he was runner-up for the National Championship. As a senior, he won it.
Again: No scholarship offers out of high school.
After college, he got into pro wrestling, which is a damn shame, because it took a massive toll on his body, and that time could’ve been spent doing something else truly amazing. Fortunately, though, the WWE career only lasted three years. Lesnar quit because he felt like he wanted to play in the NFL, despite the fact that he hadn’t played a down of football since high school.
Let’s pause and think about that for a second. To start with, playing defensive line in the NFL pretty much requires you to be one of the chosen few genetic lottery winners on earth. On top of that, all the other genetic freaks out there have been working non-stop for the last seven years on their technique, and their knowledge of the minute details of the game, while Lesnar was … I don’t know, powerbombing John Cena.
Do you know anyone who could quit their job right now, and go have a reasonable chance of making an NFL roster? Can you even think of any pro athletes who could leave their sport and make an NFL team? No names are coming to my mind, and if there were, they’d also be guys who belonged in the conversation for “best athlete in the world.”
Lesnar came up just short of the NFL. He was one of the last cuts for the Vikings, and afterwards, they asked him to go the NFL Europe, get some seasoning, and then come back and try to make the team again.
That he even got close to the league is silly. Pro football is the chosen sport for the world’s best big-man athletes, and only the best of the best ever get close to the NFL. Lesnar damn near made it, pretty much on a whim, and probably would have gotten there if he’d have been willing to spend a year in Europe, away from his family.
Instead, he chose MMA and despite once again having zero experience and going against guys who have been doing it their whole lives, he very promptly became the World Heavyweight Champion.
He lost one fight — his first in the UFC — and since then, has owned the heavyweight division. He beat up workhorse veteran Heath Herring, took the title from legend Randy Couture, and avenged his loss to Frank Mir.
Which brings us back to last night’s Carwin fight. Lesnar hadn’t fought in a year due to a serious illness, and in his first fight back, he beat Carwin, who had mowed through everyone else in the division. And not only did Lesnar beat him, he answered two questions everyone still had about him: What would happen when he faced some adversity in a fight, and could he win with skill, as opposed to just sheer size and athleticism?
It wasn’t the prettiest win you’ll ever see, but it was still an amazing performance. If not because of who he beat, how he beat him, or what he overcome to get there, then because it was still just his sixth professional fight. He’s still a relative babe in MMA, and right now, there’s not a heavyweight out there who can touch him.
What Lesnar is doing is sick. It doesn’t make sense.
What he did in college — going from zero scholarship offers to national champion — was sick and didn’t make sense. That he stepped right out of the world of piledrivers and boston crabs and nearly made an NFL roster — that didn’t make sense, either. That he got into MMA in 2007, was the world champion in 2008, and is the baddest man on the planet today, again, doesn’t make one damn bit of sense. These are not things that normal human beings can do.
Brock Lesnar is a special athlete. I don’t know if the general public will ever recognize him as such, because he’s an ex-pro wrestler in a sport that’s still on the periphery of the mainstream and still misunderstood by many. I don’t know if there’s anything he can do about that.
All I can tell you is that when I watch Lesnar, it feels like I’m watching something special — like I’m watching one of these athletes that doesn’t come around very often. The guy that comes to mind the most when I try to think of someone to whom I can compare Lesnar is Bo Jackson. I felt like Bo had the natural ability to be great at damn near anything. He was a rare and special guy, even when standing alongside the best athletes in the world. I get that same feeling when watching Lesnar.