ESPN has done a feature on all 50 U.S. states listing which sports figures would be on a Mt. Rushmore for their respective state. UFC Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar is featured on ESPN’s ‘Mt. Rushmore of Sports’ for the state of South Dakota.
Each individual does not have to necessarily be from the state, but they do have to have played there or have some sort of ties. Some sports figures are on multiple states , such as MLB great Henry “Hank” Aaron (Alabama, Georgia, Wisconsin), Peyton Manning (Indiana, Tennessee) and Michael Jordan (Illinois, North Carolina).
Brock Lesnar was born and raised in Webster, South Dakota on a dairy farm. As a senior on the Webster High School wrestling team he amassed a perfect 33-0 record. Even with his outstanding record he was not highly recruited by NCAA division 1schools and ended up at Bismarck State College, a junior college in Bismarck, North Dakota.
While there he was a 2x NJCAA Heavyweight champion and 2x All-American. This led him to a scholarship at NCAA wrestling powerhouse University of Minnesota for his remaining college years. In his junior year he won the Big Ten Conference Heavyweight Championship, finished runner up at the NCAA national tournament losing to New England Patriot offensive lineman, Stephen Neal and was again named All-American.
His senior year proved to be his best when he repeated as Big Ten champion, All-American and this time won the NCAA Heavyweight wrestling championship. From there he embarked on a successful albiet short Pro Wrestling career with WWE, winning the WWE Title three times before parting ways with the organization and finishing his pro career in Japan.
In between the WWE and Japan he did make an unsuccessful attempt to play professional football for the Minnesota Vikings. Viking coaches were impressed with his work ethic and athletic ability but cited his age as being the main reason he didn’t make the team. He was let go on the final roster cuts.
After his pro wrestling career ended and his attempt to play in the NFL was over, Brock embarked on his journey into mixed martial arts. With his wrestling credentials, size, and remarkable athletic ability, MMA seemed to be a perfect fit. Already living in Minneapolis, he turned to Minnesota Martial Arts Academy and head trainer Greg Nelson to get him prepared for MMA.
In his first fight he demolished the over-matched but more experienced Min Soo Kim (3-6) at K-1 Dynamite in just 1:09 of the first round. Seeing the potential in his skills and marketing ability, UFC president Dana White signed hm after just his first MMA fight.
His first challenge was former heavyweight champ Frank Mir (12-3). Lesnar dominated Mir early with a knockdown from a right hand and some serious ground and pound. It wasn’t long though before his inexperience showed and he was caught with a kneebar by the Jiu-Jitsu ace.
Next up was veteran fighter Heath Herring (28-14) who had a whopping 39 more fights than Lesnar at the time. It made little difference though, as Lesnar stunned Herring right away with a punch and never looked back dominating him for a unanimous decision after three brutal rounds.
Then came the biggest challenge of his young MMA career and likely his athletic life when he fought Randy Couture for the UFC Heavyweight Championship. Couture being an MMA legend and one of the best fighters ever, even at age 45, held his own with the much larger Lesnar, but was eventually knocked down by a huge right hand (literally and figuratively) followed by a barrage of hammer fists, making Lesnar the new champion in just his fourth fight. He is scheduled to rematch Frank Mir for a UFC Heavyweight Title unification bout at UFC 98 in Las Vegas although the card hasn’t been officially announced.
South Dakota isn’t exactly known as a sports haven, but Lesnar did beat out such athletes as Mike Miller (NBA Rookie of the Year in 2001) and Heisman Trophy runner up Josh Heupel who led Oklahoma to the 2000 NCAA football title. Brock was the only MMA fighter who made the list.
Who would be on an MMA Mt.Rushmore? Instead of using states, countries would probably be more appropriate. With legendary fighters from Japan, U.S., Russia, Brazil and others, it would make for an interesting study. Stay tuned to PRO MMA (promma.info) for a Mt. Rushmore of MMA.