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Throughout most of UFC 226, dubbed "Superfight," the pay-per-view event played out like an average night, and even the main event between light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier and then-heavyweight champ Stipe Miocic went according to how many predicted. But at one point, Brock Lesnar showed up, wearing a dark suit and a bright grin. and ominous WWE vibes wafted from him as he stalked the announcers table. The dam burst around those vibes not long after Cormier won the fight, when Lesnar stampeded into the octagon to melodramatically ham-fist a title challenge to Cormier in a way that intentionally aped the WWE's theatrical nature. And here's why I thought it sucked, for the most part.
For a sport where people spend 0-30 minutes beating the crap out of each other, sportsmanship is still one of the UFC's most redeeming qualities, with fighters surprisingly maintaining a professional code that largely limits the ugliness to inside the octagon. Exceptions occur, of course, and some fighters do indeed develop deep rivalries, which admittedly adds to the fights' drama. (Especially for Cormier and Jon Jones' stained feud.) But only in a WWE-specific scenario will an athlete suddenly come out of retirement to harshly antagonize a champion despite there not being any previous beef to hang the shocking moment onto.
It's not out of the ordinary for challenges to go down after main events conclude, of course, and it's not weird for Brock Lesnar to put forth a shite personality. But only in the rarest of instances do those post-fight challenges involve a new champion's victory speech getting interrupted by a spotlight-hungry opposer, and Lesnar couldn't have made a trashier reappearance, sadly dragging former Olympian Daniel Cormier down to around that same level.
Before even saying anything on the mic, Brock Lesnar got in Daniel Cormier's face and shoved him backwards, rather than just mouthing off like most UFC fighters do. It's exactly what would happen in pro wrestling, but here in the UFC, getting into unofficial scuffles can lead to official injuries and insurance issues, so they're usually avoided. Not that Cormier didn't get a quick shove in soon after, preceding it with the threat, "Push me now, you go to sleep later." Which made it feel all the more partially planned-out ahead of time, as did Joe Rogan and Dana White's smiles, which spanned one end of the arena to the other.
Brock Lesnar, whose last UFC fight was ruled a no contest after he tested positive for prohibited substances, then skunked things up even more when he got on the mic. As Daniel Cormier was embracing his family, who had just entered the octagon, Lesnar took to calling other fighters pieces of shit. He called Cormier out, saying, "I'm coming for you, motherfucker!" and then slammed the microphone into the cameraman's camera. This went beyond the WWE's usual levels of profanity, so I guess comparisons can't fully be made there, but Lesnar's stunt was clearly inspired by Vince McMahon's entertainment industry, where the behemoth has spent most of his career. Check out video of the ordeal below.
I'll admit that part of my disgust with Lesnar's messiness lies in my fandom for Daniel Cormier, who plans to retire next March when he turns 40. Even though I can foresee some advantages to giving the UFC a partial WWE makeover, especially as it branches out on ESPN and Fox, I flat-out don't want Cormier's distinguished MMA career to end on something so over-the-top and mired in marketing. Beyond that, let's not have Conor McGregor's boxing bout against Floyd Mayweather setting any giant promotion-switching precedents for how the UFC handles itself in the future. The UFC has enough potential problems to worry about in these CTE-aware times, so taking any and all class out of the equation doesn't bode well.
At the post-fight press conference, Daniel Cormier shot down criticisms of the faceoff being planned, and the fight with Lesnar was confirmed. Cormier wants it to take place in March as his last fight, and is aiming for another title defense to come before it, in November, all of which Dana White is reportedly just fine with. Because it's undoubtedly got people interested. But if he tries to make it a casket match or a Hell in a Cell match, I swear to all that is holy...
UFC 226 served as the big conclusion for the latest season of The Ultimate Fighter, but fans can catch some great brawls on the next UFC Fight Night, which airs on FS1 on Saturday, July 14, with the main card starting at 10:00 p.m. ET. To see what non-UFC-related shows are on the horizon, head to our summer premiere schedule.