There's no doubt that when Shane Carwin faces Brock Lesnar tomorrow night in Las Vegas, it will be the most significant heavyweight fight in MMA since Lesnar fought Randy Couture at UFC 91 in 2008. But while all the buzz has focused on some obvious storylines-Lesnar's return from medical sojourn, the sheer size of the two fighters, and the recently ascribed notion that this crowns a new "greatest heavyweight on earth" for the first time since 2003-there is one intriguing aspect that has flown under the radar.
Does the UFC really want Carwin to win? I'm sure they wouldn't mind in a sporting sense, but what about in a business sense? Since Brock Lesnar stepped into the UFC in 2008, he's done gangbusters for the company. The UFC's explosive growth over the past two years coincided with his arrival in 2008, fully cementing the broad pro-wrestling audience that was first exposed when The Ultimate Fighter debuted after Monday Night Raw those many years ago.
Lesnar didn't just bring wrestling fans to the UFC, but people who noticed him in tryouts for the Minnesota Vikings as well as portions of the public interested simply in his monstrous physique. He draws the eye because, in addition to his physique, he has a personality to match. Whatever kind of person Brock Lesnar is behind closed doors (and he's seemed quite nice in many instances) doesn't matchup with the cocky, brash, and vicious persona he's exhibited on UFC pay-per-views.
Without Lesnar's natural charisma, honed in the circus atmosphere of the WWE, those shows headlined by the NCAA wrestling champion don't do nearly as well in terms of sales. Well, Shane Carwin is basically the recipe for that. He's a physical specimen himself, but with the personality of a scientist. Go figure-he's an engineer. It's not Shane Carwin that has been the object of affection on SportsCenter all week; it's been Lesnar. No wonder Dana White was so dour back when Brock Lesnar fell ill.
So while Shane Carwin has a very legitimate chance of capturing the undisputed heavyweight championship tomorrow night, it's safe to guess the UFC brass is quietly hoping Lesnar takes the victory. There's a whole lot of money riding on it.