Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Meltzer Talks Lesner

----I prided myself on this site being a wrestling site and not a MMA site with my "No MMA" declaration when this site originated. Guess what has made us talk about MMA on this site?? A former pro wrestler - Brock Lesner. Gene Jackson is usually the one that posts stuff, but Greg Anthony has a good "The Golden Circle" above about Lesner and Dana White. I thought the below that Dave Meltzer wrote on in the Sunday update was such a good companion piece to Anthony's column that I wanted to post it.

A ton of interesting reaction to last night. I'm going to give my old boxing speech with a little bit of a twist. Anyone who has ripped on every athlete who at times shows unsportsmanlike like behavior can say anything they want about Brock Lesnar and that's fine. For those who think that it is going to mean more people will tune out UFC than people he has hooked as fans who want to see him get beat, you are probably as dead wrong as the people who said the same thing about Ali. For those who think Lesnar was a disgrace to the UFC for doing WWE antics, read a real history lesson of how the sport got popular. Ken Shamrock and Royce Gracie doing WWE interviews, and the funny thing is nobody was more arrogant on his interviews than Gracie, but he was small and beat big guys at first so he backed it up and became the first legend. Shamrock and Tito in 2002 saved UFC when it was one step from death. Did they save it because they were the top two fighters in the world on that night and all these sports fans wanted to pay to find out who was really No. 1?

No. They saved it because they went on "Best Damn Sports Show Period" and cut pro wrestling promos on each other and with no television at all, 150,000 people bought their PPV match, and the UFC owners realized that there was potential in this money losing outfit.

The real history that all the UFC historical retrospectives left out, was that it was the TV shows the two weeks before the Leben vs. Koscheck fight on Ultimate Fighter that was the real building blocks for the success of the sport, not the Griffin and Bonnar fight as has been reported in many places over the past week. Leben vs. Koscheck in a taped match in front of a dozen people in a warehouse like gym drew a higher rating than Griffin and Bonnar did.

In no way do I want to diminish that Griffin-Bonnar was the perfect fight on the perfect night and in the long-term helped more, because they delivered the great fight as opposed to just the great hype that delivered television ratings, but disappointed in the end. What was Matt Serra before Montreal? What was Frank Mir and Michael Bisping this past week? Play some tapes of Ali's promos for Frazier.

There are a lot of very good reasons not to like Brock Lesnar. But whatever media and Hardcore backlash there is against him, which admittedly is some of the most entertaining stuff in a long time, is because he's a former WWE wrestler, not for anything he did. Tank Abbott flipped off fans, and said he was sexually aroused when watching a replay of his match with Paul Varelans. Was Lesnar doing it anymore than Tito Ortiz and his Gay Mezger is my bitch T-shirt, or his grave digging, and take Ortiz out of the history of this sport (and some people are attempting to do that as we speak), and 2006's records never exist. Take 2006 out of the sport's history and you're at a completely different level of interest, media acceptance and CBS, Showtime, and others never get into this game in the first place. The most important fight in getting mainstream interest was a crap third fight with Ortiz and Shamrock. Buy rates mean something to company profitability, but in the media world, ratings are king, because it's a world they understand. What very slowly got the mainstream media into MMA, and as Dana White likes to remind me, took me from one place in life to another, is the media couldn't deny the ratings of the Ortiz-Shamrock match in 2006 on Spike when in 18-34 males it beat several games of that year's World Series. Was that the two best fighters in the world vying to see who was really No. 1? No, it was just a match that the two combatants and the promotion made people want to see more than any other match up to that point in history. And those viewers seeing that crap fight were so turned off by it, that a few months later, when the natural build led to Ortiz vs. Chuck Liddell, the company's bank account grew like never before.

We watched people piss in beds and piss in fruit and jack off on sushi, and guess what, more people still watched last night's PPV than any non-boxing event in history most likely. But some guy cutting a WWE-style promo, which Frank Mir and Michael Bisping both did better than he did on television over the past week, is going to turn off more people than he turns on. Hell, if guys in WWE were cutting WWE style promos as good as Mir, Bisping and Lesnar, WWE would be the one whose business would be turning around. When you actually think about the argument, it's almost absurd.

Could it hurt sanctioning in New York and Massachusetts? It's a weird world we live in and anything is possible. In a logical world, that punch Dan Henderson threw was 100 times worse, but you never know how things can mushroom. But I'm guessing it will have no effect. But you never know.

If you are consistent in your beliefs, that's cool. If you're a reactionary fool on this one, calm down and look at the world, and sports in general. When boxing people say what Lesnar did was worse than anything Mike Tyson did, I'm baffled. Did he bite a man's ear off? Did he threaten to eat any children? He cut the best and most talked about promo of his life and what will be the single most talked about promo of the year. And that's bad? Why, because he came from WWE? Why don't they blame the University of Minnesota while we're at it. Is anyone aware of how Lesnar acted as the U of M wrestling matches during his junior and senior year when they had dual meets against the other powers and fans booed him out of the small gyms? Dana White can say Lesnar was acting, and he has to, but he was just being himself, ratcheted up a few notches, because he is in the sports business, which is why he trained his ass off. But he's in the entertainment business, which is why 1 million or more people plucked down $45 last night.

Why is he now the biggest PPV draw in the world since Oscar De La Hoya is now retired? And by the way, when Oscar De La Hoya set his record two years ago, answer this question: Was the reason he set the record because he had an adversary who was or wasn't playing a villain role on purpose to drum up interest in his match?

Because Lesnar became a celebrity from WWE, and because of that, a lot of people like paying to see him fight, either to beat people up, or to get beat up. Who drew more new fans to the sport this past year, St. Pierre, Anderson Silva, Fedor or Lesnar?

Some great athletes really aren't nice guys. But that doesn't diminish them as athletes, nor hurt their sport one iota. In the plethora of stories, how many people mentioned how many new fans Lesnar has made for UFC with his fight with Mir and fight with Couture getting hundreds of thousands of first-time buyers? One of the key reasons UFC 100 is going to set records and has already started setting them even before the first PPV returns have come in, is because Brock Lesnar came from WWE and he can really fight. Guess what? The fact that some people look their noses up or have nervous breakdowns about the latter part of the statement is exactly the emotional reaction that makes him so valuable to the sport in the first place. No, it's not the WWE. You have to really be able to fight.

What Lesnar did by ripping on Bud Lite, particularly come so soon after the Dana White/Loretta Hunt deal, was absolutely bad for the company. That's the company'ss leading sponsor, and if I was Dana White, I'd be furious over that one. That was stupid, but I doubt Lesnar was aware of the White/Hunt thing and how everything went down from that. He was just trying to be funny, and actually, if it wasn't the lead sponsor and the timing wasn't absolutely horrible, it would have been funny. Hell, that was the one thing he said that almost the entire crowd cheered and laughed at live. But that line also had zero impact on fans paying money to see him beaten the next time he fights.

But for every MMA fan who criticizes Lesnar's behavior as bad for the sport, it was not even within an earshot of the two worst things of this past week. Just in the last few days, what did Quinton Jackson do a reporter? And then the professional fighter as opposed to a blowhard pro wrestler nearly got into a fight with another fighter at the show last night? Has Lesnar ever got in a situation while at ringside at a UFC show that he ever nearly came to blows with someone? And it's not like Jackson had a spotless track record over the last year. Or what if Lesnar did what Dan Henderson did, which was something a whole lot more significant?

But it got nowhere near the reaction. It's all about emotion and frame of reference. GSP is a babyface that people wanted to see win, and they were happy to see him do the right game plan to achieve his victory. Dan Henderson was there to shut up a loudmouth Brit who was obviously playing a role. And he shut him up, and then shut him up once time extra for bad measure. Lesnar was a heel people wanted to see lose, and were furious to see him succeeding with a game plan that was working. All of those elements were part of the emotions of the night. The goal, in the end, is to make people care.

The history of what has drawn the biggest PPV numbers, what made the sport and saved the sport is a lesson very much worth examining for anyone arguing about what is good or bad for the future of the sport. That duality of the reaction of the crowd live, and a large percentage of those who complained about Lesnar's tactics (but not all), says something pretty significant about MMA and its fan base.

That's not even a bad thing. But it's simply accepting the truth of what all of this is, as opposed to people who live in the world of pretend. And then somehow complain about pro wrestling.