In just less than four years as a UFC fighter, Brock Lesnar managed to climb to the top of the heavyweight division by becoming champion while also claiming the top spot at the time as the biggest draw in the sport.
Lesnar came barreling into the UFC like a bull in a china shop, calling out every heavyweight fighter anywhere near the top 10, including Randy Couture and then-champion Tim Sylvia. In his third UFC fight, Lesnar took the title from Couture to become champion, and four fights later his entire MMA career was over.
The former NCAA champion wrestler suffered two crippling bouts with diverticulitis, an intestinal disease that causes inflammation and, in Lesnar’s case, required surgery to remove part of his colon. All told, Lesnar missed out on two full years of competition because of the ailment, and when he returned to the Octagon, there was no doubt he was never the same.
Still, it’s an amazing feat what Lesnar was able to do in such a short amount of time, especially when you delete the two years he sat on the shelf dealing with the illness. The UFC has packaged together a series of all of Lesnar’s fights called "Best of the Beast," available on UFC Fight Pass, where friends of the fighter speak out about his historic run through the heavyweight division.
From college wrestler to pro wrestler to UFC champion, it was a pretty amazing run, and Lesnar’s pal Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson — who is also a big MMA fan — says that if not for diverticulitis, the former heavyweight king might still be on top of the sport, reigning over everyone with an iron fist.
"I don’t know if anybody will ever accomplish what he’s accomplished in the heavyweight division in that short amount of time," Johnson said. "Had it not been for the unfortunate issue he had to deal with his stomach, who knows what could have happened if he continued to train, and continued to hone in on his skills. What he did was epic and historic."
Jim Ross — who actually recruited Lesnar out of college to come to the WWE to do professional wrestling — echoed similar thoughts about his former protege. Ross believes if the UFC had been a bigger entity just more than a decade ago when Lesnar first left the University of Minnesota, he very well might have skipped professional wrestling all together in favor of mixed martial arts.
Once he made his way to MMA, however, Lesnar was a force of nature, rolling over almost everyone in his path. The one fight he could not win was the battle against his own body.
That was ultimately his undoing.
"It’s just too bad Mother Nature had to tap him on the shoulder a couple of times to let him know that your UFC days are over," Ross said about Lesnar.
Rumors about a Lesnar UFC comeback have surfaced on more than a few occasions, most recently just a few months ago when he disappeared from television screens while taking a hiatus from the WWE. But the former UFC champion squashed any hopes of a comeback to fighting when he re-upped with the professional wrestling promotion. He will perform this weekend at WrestleMania when he takes on Mark Callaway (aka The Undertaker) in one of the featured attractions on the show.
Fight fans can check out the entire Lesnar library on Fight Pass, as well as the interviews with Johnson, Ross and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, while also wondering what could have been if the beast incarnate hadn’t been cut down in his prime by an enemy smaller than a speck of dust.