Ben Fowlkes
Thursday July 16th, 2009

It probably says something about our culture that Brock Lesnar is the one getting all the attention after UFC 100. And when you think about, that something is really quite pathetic.

The big man stole the show by beating rival Frank Mir and then making a fool of himself in the Octagon with a post-fight victory celebration/speech that was part pro-wrestling and part spoiled-brat. The champion taunted his semi-conscious opponent (since when is beating someone up not enough?) and then went out of his way to be as disrespectful as possible to as many different people as possible.

Lesnar essentially brought the lessons of the WWE into a legitimate fighting sport. The easiest reaction to elicit when you have a camera pointed at you and a mic in your face is disdain. It's not an accomplishment to make a group of fight fans hate you. All you have to do is be crass, arrogant and insulting. Lesnar touched all those bases in just a few minutes. Short of mocking the citizens of Las Vegas, he followed the pro-wrestling playbook perfectly.

Lesnar's decision to make a cartoon character out of himself isn't necessarily bad for MMA or the UFC (or at least it's not any worse than any of the NBA's villains over the years), though it's not exactly good, either. Negative attention is still attention -- that's a fact. But it's also cheaply won and easily forgotten once the antics become stale.

The sad part is that while Lesnar made headlines for being a textbook heel, one of the sport's best pure athletes and most dedicated martial artists -- UFC welterweight champ Georges St. Pierre -- got edged out of the spotlight even after what he accomplished at UFC !00.

I suppose it didn't matter that G.S.P. not only beat a pound-for-pound top 10 opponent, but thoroughly handled him for five rounds. That he fought the last half of the fight injured and, after winning the decision, showed his opponent, his employers, and all the fans in attendance the kind of respect befitting those who are making it possible for him to earn a very healthy living -- I guess that's just not as fun to talk about as a guy who parades around the cage with his middle fingers in the air and declares his vague intention to "get on top of" his wife.

While Lesnar returned to the locker room after his fight to get an earful from UFC president Dana White for embarrassing Bud Light, one of the organization's biggest sponsors, St. Pierre was backstage insisting that his jiu-jitsu coach, John Danaher, show him what he did wrong in the fight that allowed Thiago Alves to keep getting to his feet. The intense pain he felt from an injured groin at the time, well, that apparently wasn't important enough to keep him from his grappling lesson.

St. Pierre is, in so many ways, what is best about this sport. He's a superb athlete with a nearly compulsive work ethic, who also treats his opponents and the sport itself with dignity and respect. After he beat Matt Hughes and B.J. Penn -- both of whom had some unkind words for him leading up to the bout, much like Mir did for Lesnar -- he didn't turn around and get in their faces. Instead he shook their hand, or at least refrained from taunting them at their lowest moment.

One of the great things about MMA is the variety of personalities involved. There's room for the Lesnars and the St. Pierres to co-exist. But at the same time it's disheartening to see the guy who is exactly the kind of fighter MMA has boasted of having for years -- the opposite of the raging, bar bouncer with no skills aside from brute strength -- be ignored while a 4-1 heavyweight with a big mouth and a bad attitude gets all the glory.

Lesnar can be the UFC's villain, and that's fine. But there are still some good guys out there, and they're easy to spot. They're the ones who aren't trying every trick in the book to get you to notice them for all the wrong reasons.

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