The difficulty of being Bobby Lashley
The rules for inducting or grooming prizefighters don't apply to amateur wrestlers. Amateur wrestlers are savages who have spent their adolescence mastering a significant portion of mixed martial arts. As early as 1994 and as late as 2009 -- when 1-0 FILA champion Joe Warren beat 21-2 "Kid" Yamamoto -- wrestlers have had the unique ability to literally walk off a wrestling mat and into a ring without embarrassment.
This expectation has created a lot of confusion around Bobby Lashley, a powerfully built NAIA champion who was pegged as Brock Lesnar's counterpart. While both have credible athletic backgrounds, big frames and careers in sports entertainment, the similarities end at the arena entrance. In Lesnar's fourth professional fight, he defeated Randy Couture; in Lashley's fourth, he pummeled a long-overcooked Bob Sapp. Not exactly parallel paths.
Now the word is that Strikeforce, which hoped to debut Lashley on its Jan. 30 show, is having trouble matching Lashley with an opponent that would satisfy the questionable need to keep scaffolding around him -- the "building" of a 33-year-old collegiate grappler in a sport he would already seem to have the upper hand in. In a surprising bit of temerity for frequently oblivious athletic commissions, the state of Florida dismissed Strikeforce's request to match Lashley against 2-1 Yohan Banks, a man who may as well come with a chain from which to dangle him from the ceiling. As of Monday, the search for an opponent continues.
Fairly or not, both Lesnar and Warren have raised the bar for what's expected in recruited wrestlers. Lashley shying away from major talent isn't obscene, but a seeming preference to devour hapless opponents is. There's a middle tier of opposition that could test Lashley without sandbagging him. He's gotten his warm-ups. It's time to perform.