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MMA Link Club: Brock Lesnar’s return to WWE reveals a lot about MMA writers

By Zach Arnold | April 3, 2012

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As our friend Jack Encarnacao noted on Sunday night, Twitter timelines exploded with Wrestlemania chatter from… many MMA writers. There was a similar timeline explosion on Monday night when Brock Lesnar returned to WWE and laid out John Cena. Anyone who saw Lesnar’s return saw grown men practically lose their minds, screaming like cavemen scoring raw meat when Lesnar started bouncing up and down on the ramp way.

Jack’s point about how most MMA writers/reporters are, in fact, huge (closet) wrestling fans is interesting when you juxtapose it to the hardcore MMA fans online who populate message boards. They hate anything involving a scent of the wrestling business to MMA. And, yet, it was Lesnar who was easily the #1 PPV attraction for UFC. Only Georges St. Pierre even came close to matching his showings business-wise in the last couple of years.

My initial takeaway from watching WWE fans explode when Lesnar showed up was a relatively simple one. It goes to show you that MMA, for many wrestling fans, is a substitute and not replacement product in their lives. Wrestling fans always are paranoid about legitimacy. Brock Lesnar is their symbol of legitimacy. UFC gave him the rub to come back to wrestling as, pardon the pun, The Ultimate Fighter. WWE fans are often tortured souls with crappy matchmaking and even crappier disdain from the promotion. The promotion has a nasty habit of punishing those the hardest who are the most loyal supporters while doing everything it can to win over people who look at the product as a circus.

So, Lesnar is a huge breath of fresh air for WWE fans. He’s their vessel to support someone who was involved in real fighting and is back to take over their world. This is why you will have to endure non-stop Lesnar talk in both pro-wrestling and MMA circles. Hell, I had a couple of well-respected people involved in MMA on a high level this weekend ask me on the phone about Brock Lesnar being at Wrestlemania in Miami. It was the subject most discussed this week in MMA circles offline.

When the media went nuts for Wrestlemania on Sunday night, it also give me pause to the whole drug issue in MMA and why most MMA writers cover the drug subject the way they do. If most of the MMA writers are big wrestling boosters, it would certainly help explain why so many of them are conditioned to guys who are hardcore PED & pain killer drug users. No business has had more high-profile tragedy on this front than wrestling in the last 30 years in the States. It’s ridiculous the amount of guys who have died under the age of 50 due to the abuse they’ve put themselves through. You would naturally think that drug-related tragedy would strength the resolve of those who want to clean up the drug culture but, instead, it’s basically made a lot of wrestling supporters numb. They throw their hands up in the air, give up, and say that everything should be allowed… which makes WWE’s position of not allowing Therapeutic Use Exemptions for testosterone all the more remarkable while athletic commissions regulating MMA are giving it the green light.

Beau Dure, who used to write at USA Today, summarized his thoughts over the weekend on why the MMA media reacts so differently to the issue of drug usage in the sport as compared to writers in sports like baseball & football:

How many sports, when faced with time of reckoning on drugs, have fans/pundits argue they should be legal?

I don’t know of any. In baseball, some argued that stats aren’t tainted. But then McGwire (has) nowhere (been voted) near (the) Hall of Fame.

Yes — I’m referring to the “nobody cares, dude” backlash against anyone writing about TRT in mixed martial arts.

But we’re talking about sports now. Plenty of Americans are on painkillers, steroids, etc. Olympic athletes rarely get TRT TUE. (Only two granted for over 10,000+ athletes.)

Fighters’ pleas that they all have low T should draw skepticism. But the doctors prescribing TRT for all these fighters have no agenda and no reason to benefit, right?

WADA’s far from perfect. But on specific issue of TRT, no other group of athletes I know has challenged it. Why MMA?

Most drugs have side effects. We make tradeoffs if drug helps us lead “normal” life. Fighting isn’t “normal.” Are you at all suspicious that so many fighters claim levels of 80 [year olds], while (Don) Catlin says he found two legit TRT TUEs in Olympics? (The) standard for getting TUE should be reasonably high. But I still find it strange that fighters, more so than other athletes, have this great need.

Which gets back to my initial [question] — why is this a bigger controversy in MMA than elsewhere? And some MMA fans/pundits go farther, wondering why steroids and other PEDs are illegal. I don’t see that elsewhere.

The UFC Sweden show can’t come fast enough. Neither can ABBA’s new release, either. You know you want it.

Member sites of the MMA Link Club

This week’s MMA Link Club featured stories

Thought I’d point out this item from the dreaded Las Vegas Review-Journal talking about the conviction of Russell Pike for tax evasion. Yes, that Russell Pike of Xyience fame – an early sponsor of UFC.

Five Ounces of Pain: Eddie Alvarez – ‘I need to go in there and I need to perform the way I usually do, then we can talk about other things

Eddie is a -220 favorite, 11 to 5 favorite over Aoki in Cleveland on the 20th.

MMA Fighting: Gil Melendez vs. Josh Thomson rubber match booked for May 19th

When this was announced yesterday, a lot of hardcore fans sighed because it wasn’t Gil vs. BJ Penn or Gil vs. Anthony Pettis.

Fightline: Nevada’s Pat Lundvall says that she asks every fighter what she asked King Mo last week

Cage Potato: Dana White says Jake Ellenberger/Martin Kampmann will be for a title shot, but we call shenanigans

MMA Mania: Retired MLS star Jimmy Conrad fires back at Dana White for anti-soccer tirade

Wait… I thought UFC would overtake the NFL and soccer as the biggest sport in 10 years? 🙂

5th Round: UFC 145 Primetime premieres this Friday at FX

The ratings for The Ultimate Fighter have not done well (so far). The dynamic has been fascinating — hardcore fans online love the show because the match-ups have been notable in quality. However, casual fans are not hot about the show at all. I’ve watched the show with a few casuals and they remark in the difference between what Spike focused on and what FX focuses on. FX focuses on the live fight, making the taped portion largely boring & mundane. And, yet, I think this current format on FX will produce a better result in terms of actually preparing the tournament winner to having some immediate success in the UFC, something that has not happened for a while now on the show.

But is there a way to find the balance between what Spike did and what FX is emphasizing now? Sure. Focus the first 20 minutes of the show on the pre-fight atmosphere & conversation (with some taped highlights from the week), then air the live fight, and then focus on the locker rooms after the fight since that’s where the most verbal action seems to be taking place this season.

Bleacher Report: Why Demian Maia’s move to Welterweight is the right decision

Middle Easy: Don Frye has a voice like an angel, and this video of him singing karaoke proves it

Low Kick: Josh Barnett says he’ll prove he is the ‘best grappler in MMA’ against Daniel Cormier

Josh is a -140 favorite (7 to 5). That sounds a bit low, at least if you use the standard conventional wisdom going into this fight.

The Fight Nerd: Bellator’s Bjorn Rebney confirms next women’s tournament at 125 pounds, names some fighters

For a ‘minor’ promotion, they sure are booking a lot of worldwide talent and I expect that trend to continue. I’d like to see more of the women fighting, though, so hopefully things will be picking up on this front.

MMA Convert: Dan Henderson feels Rashad Evans has what it takes to defeat Jon Jones

He thinks Rashad can put Jones on his back. Wow. He should talk to Luca Fury about the lopsided fight odds for this fight.

MMA Payout: China on the UFC schedule in 2012

When it comes to mainland China and promotions like WWE or UFC making promises… I’ll believe it when I see it.

Topics: Media, MMA, StrikeForce, UFC, Zach Arnold | 37 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

37 Responses to “MMA Link Club: Brock Lesnar’s return to WWE reveals a lot about MMA writers”

  1. Jonathan Snowden says:

    That Dure tweet fest was in response to me. Says everything about your “journalism” that you don’t include both sides of the discussion.

    By the way, people tweeting about Wrestlemania publicly are, by definition, not “closeted” wrestling fans. They are public fans engaging the public in an open forum.

    • The Gaijin says:

      Well, as long as you didn’t just come here to attention whore and make it all about you. Says everything about your “journalism” now doesn’t it, Jonathan.

      • Jonathan Snowden says:

        It might say something about my commenting. It doesn’t really say anything about my “journalism.” So your rant was kind of a waste of space, breath, and time.

        Nice to see some new blood cropping up among the hyperbolic FO troll set. 45 Huddle was getting lonely I’m sure.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          Or more and more people are just seeing through your schtick now….

        • Chuck says:

          The Gaijin has been here just as long as I and 45 have been. Which would be since day one, and from the Puroresu Power days.

        • The Gaijin says:

          I’ve been here since pre-“day one” of FO, before you were even an attention whoring, page-view trolling glimmer in Luke Thomas and Nate Wilcox’s eye over at Bloody Elbow…so nice try. In fact, I’ve gone out of my way to stick up for you on many, many occasions in the past – go look if you don’t believe me.

          However, time and again you’ve made me regret sticking up for you with your blatant attention seeking, antagonistic op-eds with a pretty transparent agenda and inability to not come over to FO to try and get yourself over all the time. Sorry Zach lacked journalistic integrity b/c he didn’t post YOUR tweets and making sure everyone knows you’re somehow “involved”, but it’s crap like this that shows everyone your true colours and what your whole gimmick is all about. Get over yourself buddy.

          I’ve always found it really funny how a number of the BE/BE alumni always like to act all important and think they’re the most legit site on Earth (“Our web traffic is higher than yours!!”), but just cannot help themselves but worry about what people say on FO and/or have to run on here to validate themselves.

        • edub says:

          Does anybody even care what Jonathon has to say anymore? I mean he hasn’t been relevant since he left BE, and even then he was more famous for taking insanely illogical positions.

          And as Gaij pointed out, he’s been here forever.

        • Jonathan Snowden says:

          My apologies for not recognizing you from your previous illustrious comments. For the record, I’ve been rolling with Zach Arnold before there even WAS a Puroresu Power. So you can’t out OG me. It just won’t happen.

          I was in the comments to converse with Zach, like I have before FO and like I will if FO goes away. The idea that I am mentioning my tweets to get “attention” is weird. I get more than enough attention at my current writing job. I don’t need it from the 10 commenters here.

          I was just pointing out that Zach is only covering one side of a contentious issue. If he chooses to highlight someone other than me in making a case for TRT use, well, at least he’s presenting all sides of what is a real debate.

          As for “relevance” and web traffic, I have more opportunities and more readers at my new site than I ever did at Bloody Elbow. Not that anyone is counting. I’m here for the art.

        • Jonathan Snowden says:

          I sincerely want to apologize. All Gaijin look alike to me.

        • The Gaijin says:

          1. I don’t care if you didn’t recognize me nor was I trying to “out OG” you – simply pointing out I’m not some “new blood…FO troll” as you so erroneously stated. Unlike you I don’t have an inferiority complex that requires me to be validated by anonymous website posters or “journalists” recognizing me, since I have far more important pursuits in life.

          2. Bullshit you were trying to converse with Zach – you came here with the intent of picking a fight and saying inflammatory shit. Y’know, typical Trollden schtick. If you and Zach have been rolling together like OG’s I think there was 1,000,001 better ways to approach that one – but look at the one you chose.

          3. As for “relevance” – you work at the Bleacher Report bro. I’d love to see the demos of your readership as they click through slideshows of the “Top 5 best female mma camel toes”, “What 10 pro wrestlers would make good mma fighters?” and the “Top 5 twitter disasters”, etc. And as for “web traffic”, I’m sure you’ll give us honest and accurate numbers like you used to provide when you bragged about web traffic and numbers for Bloody Elbow (i.e. massively overinflated and misrepresented by telling us how many unique visits Bleacher Report/SBNation gets a month vs. how many your actual sub-site receives) – right?

          4. No worries about not recognizing me though, Johnny Boy – our reputations cannot all be preceded by a thinly veiled troll gimmick that everyone saw through ages ago.

        • Jonathan Snowden says:

          You seem a little upset. Since you brought it up, we can talk about it.

          Bloody Elbow does big numbers. Anyone in the industry or who has worked there can tell you that. I don’t recall anyone inflating them. They really are a big site.

          Bleacher Report does REALLY MASSIVE numbers. The MMA section does big numbers. The pro wrestling section does bigger numbers. The front page, where my articles are also posted, does bigger numbers still. Whether that makes you happy or not.

          I respect criticism and you are welcome to an opinion. Of course. It’s of limited value to me, since I don’t really have a “gimmick.” I do a wide variety of stories from historical pieces, to interviews, to behind the scenes pieces, to opinion stuff. Feel free to dislike what I do, but pigeonholing me makes you look and sound silly.

  2. Jonathan says:

    I could care less about modern-day Pro-Wrestling. As much as you (and others) talk about the links that are there, they are NOT the same sport in my view. I love MMA, I hate pro-wrestling today. But I still watch Dusty Rhodes and Ric Flair NWA promos.

    Not sure what that says, but to me, they appeal to me for totally different reasons.

  3. 45 Huddle says:

    1) MMA Websites had no business covering WrestleMania or Monday Night RAW with the exception of just informing MMA fans that a former UFC Champion returned to the UFC. MMA Junkie handled it correctly. Many of the other websites did not.

    2) Brock Lesnar is not a symbol of Pro Wrestling being legit. If anything, it shows that when an athlete can’t cut it in REAL sports, he can always fall back on the fake stuff.

    3) TUF Ratings are about what I figured they would do. They lost a few 100,000 because of the day change. The fanbase hasn’t changed anything. I think some people think it’s end of the world type of stuff for the UFC. Hardly. FOX has a huge investment into the UFC now. Changes will be made and they will figure out how to maximize the value. If anything, the UFC is in a great place because FOX has a vested interest in the deal. Same thing happened with Conan on TBS. His ratings started off bad. So what did they do? They doubled down and put Big Bang Theory replays as a lead in.

    4) I don’t understand why people aren’t giving Rashad Evans a chance. I still think Jones wins, but you can tell by Evans confidence that he knows deep down he has a solid shot at winning. You can’t fake his type of composer coming into the fight.

    5) Melendez/Thomson isn’t what everybody expected, but Strikeforce doesn’t have much to work with here. And at least it isn’t the main event. With that said, Melendez has no business in SF in 2012, but only has himself to blame for it.

  4. I admit, I was a huge wrestling fan when I was a young child…..and when I was informed that it was fake, I immediately began to lose interest. I started to watch ECW when I got older mainly because of the exciting matches they put on, and was able to view it as “entertainment” and not a sport. It was during this time that I became more interested in MMA and a major, major, fan today.

    It’s kind of ironic when I think back on it. In first grade I took up midget wrestling because I was a big fan of the WWF and thought it would be similiar to what I saw on TV. Despite my Father’s warnings that it was nothing like what I saw on TV because what I saw on TV was “scripted”, I tried it out anyway. When I realized the truth, I didn’t wrestle in second grade until high school.

    It’s also ironic in that I tried out for the high school wrestling team as a freshman, and the main push for this was because I watched collegiate wrestlers become succesful in the UFC and I wanted to imitate them. I stayed on the wrestling team throughout all four years of high school, and actually got pretty good at it. Not a state champ or anything, but good enough to be competitive with some of the best in the state of NJ and become a two time captain of the team. If it wasn’t for MMA, I never would have given wrestling a second shot.

    I do think your spot on with your belief that most MMA fans started watching MMA instead of wrestling, and used it as a substitute. A lot of my friends who are casual fans of the sport became more interested when Brock Lesnar started competing in the UFC, mainly because they felt it legitimized Professional wrestling.

    I do wonder though what this means for new fans of MMA and wrestling. Would younger fans of the UFC have become fans of professional wrestling if MMA wasn’t around?

    I think yes. But I also think they’ll dismiss professional wrestling because they have a legitimate form of fighting to watch as entertainment.

    Keep up the good work Zach.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      I cringe when I saw a bunch of boys under the age of 8 year olds at a few Bellator events. Don’t see it as much at UFC events, but I speculate that has more to do with ticket prices.

      The latest UFC Magazine has a letter sent in from a fan…. He attached a picture of his 1 year old daughter watching the fights.

      What kind of parent allows their 1 year old to watch MMA? Has our society become so desensitized to violence that this is okay?

      Anyways, my point is that Pro Wrestling naturally attracts younger kids and MMA naturally attracts more of the teenager or older age. So there will always be some crossover fans.

      Oh, and I joined my high school wrestling team due to my love of Pro Wrestling and watching the wrestlers compete in the UFC. Very similar to your story. I loved amateur wrestling. Not exactly an easy sport to compete in as you get older. And I don’t watch any Pro Wrestling anymore. Once ECW left, my love for Pro Wrestling quickly dwindled. But I will always have the memory of staying up until 2am watching ECW on the MSG Network…. Oh the memories…

    • edub says:

      Great points William.

      I think your spot on in thinking that wrestling could be much bigger now had MMA not become popular.

    • Dave says:

      I don’t think that it is far-fetched at all to think that a good portion of MMA fans are just displaced wrestling fans. Let’s all be extremely honest with when UFC first started taking off, and how it had to do with a reality show airing after WWE Raw. Of course there were fans before that, but there were still a lot that came from WWE.

      I dunno, I grew up watching wrestling but was introduced to ‘real fighting’ early on as well. Around 94 I was taking Kenpo and my instructor heard us talking about wrestling and told us to check out the “real stuff.” This was the first UFC show and the few K-1 shows that had happened to date with some Pancrase and whatever thrown in (he was a pretty big nerd). They existed side-by-side for me until UFC really just took off in 2005, when at the time WWE was pretty rotten and Japan had fallen off for wrestling.

      The big difference is the sense of creativity, though, I think. Wrestling is like watching a movie based around this idea of tough guys fighting for championships. It provides things that real fighting simply cannot because real fighting is not scripted. Now, if they deliver on their storylines or in their matches is another thing, but well done pro wrestling is really something to behold, while professional fights will always be what they’ll be and be a game of numbers and chance.

      • columbo says:

        Right. Most UFC fans who trash wrasslin’ are the ones that actually loved the stuff back in the day. I guess they feel the need to do that so they fit in with their douchebag clique.

  5. Nick says:

    I have always found it fascinating how much “MMA Fans” hate on Wrasslin’…I guess I came in during a different period when I started training with Matt Hume and Haru Shimanishi back in ’95 at AMC Pankration. I remember reading Haru’s Japanese pro-wrestling magazines at AMC Pankration and borrowing his copy of Firepro Wrestling for Famicon. Even today AMC displays about 8 lucha masks inside the gym and they are as legit of an MMA gym as you will find in the World. I’ve loved pro-wrestling since I first watched it and have always known it was a worked entertainment spectacle and not a legit sport. I love it today, yesterday and tomorrow. Shit or get off the pot…if you watch it GREAT…if you think it’s stupid GREAT, but if you are an MMA website marking out over Lesnar and reporting it as MMA news, leave it alone and STFU already.

  6. RST says:

    Rock and Roll!

    If UFC is abusive.

  7. The Gaijin says:

    Apparently Overeem pissed hot on his surprise pre-fight test from the 146 presser. “Elevated testosterone levels” of 10:1 vs. 6:1 allowable limits – more evidence that pre-fight testing is an IQ test and that surprise tests are needed to actually have any discernable effect.

    • RST says:


      So they finally prove what we have all suspected.

      Maybe he can claim therapy for tiny balls next year.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      Finally he got busted. We all know he was going to piss hot a few months ago and avoided it.

      He was an OBVIOUS abuser. He deserves everything that is coming to him.

      • 45 Huddle says:

        I should also add….

        1) Junior Dos Santos vs. Frank Mir seems like a reasonable replacement. Actually, it is a fight I would like to see and still a worthy title fight.

        2) I made a comment after the news of the tests happening that this was the UFC’s way of making sure Overeem was clean before giving him a title shot. Looks like I was right.

        3) Alistair Overeem’s entire career will always be in question now. Much like Cyborg, his game was based on power. And he was never great until he started to take a banned substance and get bigger because of it.

        4) This is ANOTHER Strikeforce fighter who got busted. Strikeforce has a HUGE PED problem…. We just didn’t know it because they weren’t going to these big testing states all of the time.

        • The Gaijin says:

          “3) Alistair Overeem’s entire career will always be in question now.”

          I would say, more accurately, his entire “heavyweight career” is in question now. Really anyone that gets caught juicing should have their entire career in question – it’s much more likely they were cycling on and off for a better part of their career and just slipped up than they’re magically starting to take it (or accidentally ingest a tainted Booster Juice).

        • 45 Huddle says:

          I agree. His Heavyweight career. That includes his Strikeforce wins along with his K-1 Grand Prix Championship.

          Since Zuffa purchased Strikeforce, 4 of their current or former champions have failed drug tests. Overee, Cyborg, Lawal, & Diaz.

          The last year of Zuffa drug problems (outside of TRT discussions) has really been because of the purchase of SF.

          Makes you wonder how many guys on the Bellator cards would piss hot if they were fighting under the jurisdiction of Nevada, California, & New Jersey for the majority of their cards.

  8. RST says:

    “Wrestling fans always are paranoid about legitimacy.”

    Nothing wrong with them.
    Just gosh darn goofy kids

    “The promotion has a nasty habit of punishing those the hardest who are the most loyal supporters while doing everything it can to win over people who look at the product as a circus.”


    Sounds like something I’m terribly familiar with!

  9. EJ says:

    I’d like to say i’m surprised to hear about Overeem failing a test but i’m not. So instead of focusing on the obvious i’d rather focus on Mir getting another shot at the HW title which is exactly what should happen. They can then move over Big Foot to face off against Cain and give Nelson a guy like Mitrione. Either way i’m much more excited for a Mir vs. JDS fight with all of the history between Mir/Nog than I was for JDS/Overeem.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      I agree. Not sure exactly who they give to Cain, but there are a few options.

      Once again, the linear Heavyweight Title eludes being unified with the UFC Heavyweight Title.

      • edub says:

        I’d personally hope for Werdum. Not only the best option right now for a late replacement, but also a guy who could now be thought of as the last legitimate linear champion, considering his only loss since JDS is Overeem.

  10. The Gaijin says:

    I want to start a petition for Mark Hunt getting the title shot!!! YES WE CAN!

    • 45 Huddle says:

      I wouldn’t mind seeing Mark Hunt get Cain Velazquez…. Which would put him 1 win away from a title shot. But putting him into a title shot now wouldn’t be smart.

      I have seen a few people mentioning Henderson fighting JDS. I actually wouldn’t be against it.

      • The Gaijin says:

        Yeah, I was just messing – a title shot would be silly. But I do like your suggestion and we could have JDS x Mir. What about a Werdum rematch? Assume they won’t like those optics from his AO loss.

      • edub says:

        Wow a Henderson shot, that just strikes me as a lamb to slaughter. I think Dan would take it too. Not the win, the fight itself.

        Give Randy the shot! Randy! Randy! Randy!

  11. columbo says:

    What’s with all the talk about WWE fans wanting people to take their ‘sport’ as being legitimate. They just wanna see some mindless over-the-top action. Brock used to bring that. Many of the WWE guys already have legitimate athletic backgrounds. Nick Nemeth is one of them.

    It’s funny to see some MMA fans refer to wrassler’s as former real athletes when they weigh 300 lbs. and work the line at Subway. lol

    Oh yeah, I was just kidding about not wanting NY to legalize MMA.


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