Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Did Dana White Sell the UFC's Soul for 250,000 Pieces of Silver?

At UFC 81, Brock Lesnar was paid $250,000 just to show up for a bout lasting only a minute and a half, and when former champ Frank Mir submitted the pro wrestler with a kneebar, it marked the end of weeks of hype and anticipation - and the perhaps the end of an era. For while fight fans and fake-fight fans likely tuned in in droves, the "Superbowl of Mixed Martial Arts" was suddenly about a co-main event featuring a man who was 1-0 when he set foot in the Octagon. Yes, Lesnar's record consisted of but one fight. Did Dana White sell the UFC's soul for pay-per-view buys? And if so, was it worth it? When the Mir/Lesnar bout was announced, I thought about January 10th, 2002 - the night before UFC 35 - and the Zuffa-hosted press dinner. I had the filet mignon, Joe Silva had a cheeseburger, Lorenzo Fertita had a martini, and Dana White promised those of us in attendance (Josh Gross, Jeff Sherwood, Kirik Jenness, et al.) that the UFC absolutely did not want to court pro wrestlers as potential fighters. Something about credibility and wrong demographics and "We'd rather have pro boxers - what's Shannon Briggs up to?" My how times have changed.