BOSTON—Dana White responded with words of support to his biggest cash cow putting himself out to pasture before he could provide the UFC another milking.
“Brock Lesnar came into this sport and did what many people thought he couldn’t do, including myself,” White told Breitbart Sports backstage at a presser for UFC 189. “He became a world champion. He was part of some of the biggest fights ever. He was fun to have here.”
Lesnar, who in just eight bouts compiled three of the five bestselling mixed-martial-arts (MMA) pay-per-views in history and defeated the likes of Randy Couture, Frank Mir, and Shane Carwin, opted to return to the WWE on Tuesday rather than resume a cage-fighting career derailed by diverticulitis and defeats. At 37, Lesnar admitted he lacked the passion and maintained he accomplished what he had set out to—sentiments seconded by White.
“This is a young man’s sport,” the UFC president explained. “You shouldn’t be hemming and hawing about whether you’re going to come back to this game.” He pointed to the passion exuded by twentysomethings Jose Aldo and Conor McGregor, in Boston to promote their July 11 pay-per-view bout, as a sign that a fighter’s head remains in the game rather than in the ether or elsewhere.
As it stands, Lesnar’s head may have been in his wallet. The UFC pursued the hulking wrestler, even doubling its offer to him, but the WWE’s offer in terms of time commitments, personal sacrifice, and money, persuaded one of its most marketable personalities to return. White told Breitbart Sports, “Vince [McMahon] threw the vault at him.”
McGregor, who along with Ronda Rousey and Jon Jones, has filled a void left by the departures of the retired Lesnar, resting Georges St. Pierre, and suspended Anderson Silva, rejects the idea that Lesnar leaving the stage somehow allowed more spotlight for him.
“This is my time,” the headliner of UFC 189 told Breitbart Sports. “This is the McGregor time. It does not matter who is here. I would still be where I am and doing what I am now.”
Lesnar performs this weekend at Wrestlemania 31 alongside Roman Reigns. The former NCAA wrestling champion currently plays the champion in Vince McMahon’s scripted wresting federation.
“I’m happy for Brock Lesnar,” White concluded. “I’m happy for his family. And I’m happy for Vince [McMahon]. I think it’s a win-win for all of them.”