UFC 226 was on the verge of being a historically underwhelming pay-per-view event, with the featherweight title bout being scrapped and the co-main event fight between Francis Ngannou and Derrick Lewis falling flat. Then Daniel Cormier grabbed the microphone, and Brock Lesnar stepped into the cage.
The UFC clearly saved the best for last on Saturday night.
An exceptional moment proceeded what would end up being the most talked about callout in recent memory.
Cormier, the man that had wrongfully been dubbed a paper champion, knocked out heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic and joined Conor McGregor as the only fighter to ever hold two UFC titles simultaneously.
In one fell swoop, he upended the most successful heavyweight champion in UFC history and silenced all the critics merely viewing him as a product of Jon Jones’ atrophy.
It all could have ended under the bright lights of the octagon, as he celebrated one of the truly all-time great accomplishments.
The 39-year-old MMA legend could have ridden off into the sunset with multiple UFC titles and a lone loss to Jones on his resume, but he obviously has another score to settle with a former UFC champion and reigning WWE champion.
“There’s a guy that I’ve known for a long time—he’s a wrestler, he’s an All-American, he’s a former UFC champion,” Cormier said during his post-fight interview with UFC commentator Joe Rogan. “I never thought I would fight him, but Brock Lesnar, get your ass in here.”
With a wide-eyed grin spread cheek to cheek, Lesnar stood up and ran into the cage for a face-to-face confrontation with Cormier.
A short shoving match ensued but was quickly broken up by a couple of event security guards that couldn’t possibly stop two of the baddest men on the planet, if they truly wanted to get their hands on one another.
There was certainly a little showmanship to hype up a potential future championship fight, but no one cared in that very moment. Exhausted and disappointed fans reveled in the dramatized fallout of UFC 226, whether it was manufactured or not.
“I walked into this building and watched the heavyweight disasters from the beginning,” said Lesnar. “Ngannou is a piece of s—t. Miocic is a piece of s—t. DC, I’m coming for you m———-r.”
A shoving of the microphone into a nearby camera led to an eruption of applause from the thousands in attendance at the T-Mobile Arena in Paradise, and the promo was done.
Lesnar, the UFC’s most marquee heavyweight ever, was back in the saddle. Not only was he back, but he had completely hijacked the show.
Miocic was an afterthought after the event, despite owning the record for most consecutive UFC heavyweight title defenses and being tied with Randy Couture and Tim Sylvia for most successful defenses.
Those feats alone are enough to cement his future placement in the UFC Hall of Fame.
Yet, those accomplishments were crushed and forgotten under the mere presence of Lesnar, who is 0-2-1 in his last three fights. His last fight, a decision win over Mark Hunt nearly two years ago, was overturned and rendered a no contest after he tested positive for Clomiphene, an estrogen blocker.
There was no immediate rematch for Miocic like there was for Cody Garbrandt and Joanna Jedrzejczyk. A quiet exit was all that remained in the wake of a historic championship run, further solidifying the exaltation of spectacle over rationality in combat sports.
But hard work put Brock Lesnar in a position to be the UFC’s most lucrative option.
He’s the one that sacrificed everything by trading in his wrestling boots for four ounce gloves. When hardcore fans saw his spontaneous venture as a joke, he proved them wrong by soaring to the top of the heavyweight ranks and winning a world title.
Now he stands in the crosshairs of Cormier as a self-made man reaping the rewards from a gamble he made nearly a decade ago, completely hell-bent on shocking the world once more.
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 7/8/2018.