Needless to say, the NCAA Division I wrestling champion, turned pro-wrestler, turned fighter brought with him more eyeballs from mainstream fans than any competitor in MMA history. Many purists wanted to see him fail instantly, yet his natural athleticism and high-level wrestling lead him to the UFC heavyweight championship.
Lesnar's title victory meant casual fans had someone truly recognizable they could identify with the UFC brand, while hardcore fans on MMA forums were left contemplating seppuku with their keyboards.
But now that his career is apparently over, how do we analyze the footprint left behind by someone who didn't necessarily embody the sport of MMA, but captivated so many people's attention?
There is no definitive answer.
Despite his WWE background, Lesnar was one of the most decorated amateur wrestlers to enter the sport. He was a massive, imposing figure, but he also moved like a fighter half his size – at least in the grappling department.
What he lacked in skills pertaining to other disciplines, he more than made up for in speed, power and wrestling technique. Had he entered MMA at a younger age, he could have been moulded into a very complete fighter.
But regardless of his weaknesses, Lesnar was successful at emphasizing his strengths. He imposed his will and beat some excellent competitors with comparatively minimal experience under his belt.
We only ever saw a fraction of what he was physically capable of.
Lesnar was a guy with one sharp weapon and several dull blades, who rivals were beginning to figure out.
Lesnar never appeared comfortable striking with anyone who had one-punch KO power. He looked great until he got hit. He landed one spectacular straight-right on Heath Herring and knocked out Greco Roman wrestling specialist Randy Couture, who was outweighed by roughly 50 pounds.
Also, Lesnar's only submission victory due to an actual hold was an arm-triangle choke on a completely gassed Shane Carwin.
Wrestling is the best base in which to enter MMA and he was able to exploit that.
Lesnar took a risk. He stepped into a sport with limited experience and wanted to fight the absolute best right away. Some would call that guts, others would label it stupidity when the name of the game is hitting someone in the face.
But Lesnar didn't hand pick opponents. Half the time he barely seemed to even know who they were, despite being MMA mainstays.
But he wanted to test himself and fought some of the best. No one can ever take that away from him.
Let's face it, he only got a title shot against Couture at UFC 91 because he was Brock freakin' Lesnar. He was 2-1 as a pro after winning a decision over Herring, who himself wasn't even ranked in the top 10.
Also, at the time Fabricio Werdum was the best candidate for a title shot given the current standings.
The decision to hand Lesnar the title opportunity made the sport look bad on a competitive level, but you can't blame him for accepting an incredible offer. Besides, he shut up the critics by winning the title and defending it twice.
He only fought for four and a half years, but spent almost half that time with the UFC heavyweight belt around his waist.
Lesnar never came across as someone who cared about advancing MMA in any significant way. As far as the sport was concerned, he basically focused on himself and to some extent his teammates.
He was in it for his own gains. It's easy to get angry with that attitude, but it's hard to blame him for it. Fighters only have a limited window to compete and they need to make the most of that time.
Perhaps Lesnar's legacy is best defined by the man who sent him into retirement.
“Love him or hate him, it's always something when Brock fights,” Overeem said at the UFC 141 post-fight press conference.
Lesnar's career was full of ups and downs, both inside and outside the cage. But he did embarrass himself or the sport of MMA?
Brock Lesnar's MMA record
LOSS -- Alistair Overeem -- TKO (Strikes)
LOSS -- Cain Velasquez -- TKO (Punches)
WIN -- Shane Carwin -- Submission (Arm-Triangle Choke)
WIN -- Frank Mir -- TKO (Punches)
WIN -- Randy Couture -- TKO (Punches)
WIN -- Heath Herring -- Unanimous Decision
LOSS -- Frank Mir -- Submission (Kneebar)
WIN -- Min Soo Kim -- Submission (Punches)