Fighters and villains - Joel Hall

Just about every popular sport has its villains.

Some athletes, like tarnished baseball legends Barry Bonds and Pete Rose, are vilified because of bad decisions, such as steroid use and illegal gambling.

Other villainous athletes, however, are just jerks. While Adam "Pacman" Jones is a talented cornerback, it's hard for people to overlook his off-the-field conduct and the gatuitous violence that seems to surround him.

Mike Tyson, arguably one of the greatest heavyweight boxers to ever fight in the ring, is hard pressed to find venues willing to put up with his psychotic behavior.

Mixed martial arts, a sport that is quickly gaining popularity, has yet to have a clearly defined villain -- until now. As of Saturday, that villain is Brock Lesnar.

Admittedly, I'm a big fan of mixed martial arts, particularly the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). However, I'm not blind to the fact that the people behind the sport walk a precarious tightrope, and that something like a death in the ring, or too much bad press could easily cause the sport to plummet into obscurity.

The UFC needs all the support and fans it can get. Lesnar's performance at UFC 100 on Saturday night, however, will probably leave a bad taste in the mouths of some fans for a long time.

Leading to up his rematch with Frank Mir, Lesnar came off as a surly comic-book villain. In so many words that can't be repeated in a family newspaper, he expressed total disdain for Mir and Steve Mazzagatti, the referee of the previous fight.

In a promotional video leading up the fight, Lesnar broke a door after watching a recap of the last fight, in which he lost to Mir after submitting to a leg bar.

On fight night, Saturday, Lesnar brought that rage into the ring with him. After refusing to touch gloves with Mir upon receiving the referee's commands, Lesnar proceeded to pounce on Mir and beat him with the two Virginia hams he calls his fists. Mir got in a few good strikes, but was ultimately overpowered by Lesnar's brute strength.

It wasn't enough for Lesnar to beat Mir to a pulp, however. After the fight, he went into his opponent's corner and shouted obscenities at the semi-conscious Mir. The anger that most good fighters direct at their opponent was then directed at everyone else in the room.

Right after the win, Lesnar, foaming at the mouth, spit out his mouth piece in the direction of a cameraman just outside the ring and proceeded to head butt the cage in front of him. After some boos from the audience, he flicked double birds at the people who paid good money to see the fight.

In a post fight rant, Lesnar egged on the audience for more boos, badmouthed Bud Light (one of his sponsors) for not paying him enough money, told the audience he was going to "drink a Coors" and "get on top of" his wife, and continued to verbally bash the defeated Mir.

Before coming to the UFC, Lesnar was a wrestler in the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment). People who go to pro wrestling matches expect to be slightly offended, because it is part of the show. For a sport that constantly touts itself as being as majestic and entertaining as boxing, sorry sportsmanship to that degree is bad for mixed martial arts.

If the UFC is going to continue, it will need to decide whether it is going to be about fighting, or shock-value entertainment.

Otherwise, audiences may become more confounded than entertained, and leave the sport altogether.

Joel Hall covers government and politics for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached via e-mail at jhall@news-daily.com.