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Brock Lesnar changed the math for the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
The hulking Webster, South Dakota, native used his superstardom in World Wrestling Entertainment as a springboard into an extended run as the biggest box-office draw in mixed martial arts, where he cut down legends, captured the UFC heavyweight championship, broke records on pay-per-view and banked millions in prize money. Though Lesnar’s stay in MMA was brief—he fought just nine times—and was interrupted by a life-threatening bout with diverticulitis, no one can deny the sudden impact he made. Now 42, he returned to a part-time gig with the WWE after his victory over Mark Hunt at UFC 200 was overturned and changed to a no contest in light of a positive test for clomiphene.
With all indications pointing to the reality that Lesnar has competed in MMA for the last time, here are five things you might not know about him:
1. A championship pedigree was established as an amateur.
Lesnar was a four-time collegiate All-American wrestler at Bismarck State College and the University of Minnesota, where he won a national championship in 2000. He compiled a ridiculous 106-5 record between those two stops before turning his attention to more lucrative ventures.
2. His collegiate exploits took him down a path to superstardom.
The World Wrestling Federation—now World Wrestling Entertainment—signed Lesnar in 2000 and assigned him to Ohio Valley Wrestling, a feeder organization based in Louisville, Kentucky. He made his WWF debut on March 18, 2002 and went on to win the prestigious King of the Ring tournament some three months later.
3. Few wrestlers in WWE history can match his accomplishments.
Over the course of his 18-year pro wrestling career, Lesnar has established himself as one of the most successful and recognizable WWE stars of all-time. He became at the time the youngest WWE champion in history at SummerSlam on Aug. 25, 2002, when he defeated Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson at the age of 25. Lesnar has enjoyed five separate reigns totaling 753 days as WWE champion, good for sixth on the company’s all-time list behind Bruno Sammartino (4,040), Hulk Hogan (2,185), Bob Backlund (2,083), John Cena (1,387) and Pedro Morales (1,027).
4. He courted pro football.
Lesnar hit the pause button on his professional wrestling pursuits to chase a potential career in the NFL, this despite not having played organized football since high school. He signed with Minnesota in July 2004 and appeared in a few preseason games for the Vikings before being released. Lesnar later turned down an opportunity to play football in Europe.
5. His ascent through the MMA ranks was startling.
Mixed martial arts beckoned in 2007, as Lesnar made his pro debut opposite South Korean judoka Min Soo Kim under the K-1 Hero’s flag and struck the Olympic silver medalist into submission in just 69 seconds. He signed with the Ultimate Fighting Championship four months later, went 1-1 in his first two appearances and then challenged Randy Couture for the undisputed heavyweight title at UFC 91 on Nov. 15, 2008. Lesnar stopped Couture on second-round punches to capture the championship in just his fourth professional bout. Successful title defenses against Frank Mir and Shane Carwin followed before health issues and ill-fated encounters with Cain Velasquez and Alistair Overeem derailed his career, prompting his return to the WWE.
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