Brock Lesnar Returns to the UFC–and Not a Moment Too Soon

Brock Lesnar (Erik Jamison-AP)

Like Caesar, Brock Lesnar came, he saw, he conquered. And like Caesar, a stabbing pain in his midsection ended his rule.

Now, at 38, the NCAA-wrestler-turned-professional-wrestler-turned-mixed-martial-artist-turned-professional-wrestler announced his return to the octagon. It comes at an opportune time for the UFC. With box-office juggernauts Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor coming off losses, and Jon Jones in the midst of a comeback after numerous missteps outside of the cage damaged his standing among fans, Brock rides to the rescue for UFC 200, the blockbuster summer card that the promotion hopes to break MMA pay-per-view records.

Three of Lesnar’s seven bouts in the UFC eclipsed one million buys. The promotion boasts just ten such million sellers. But after a fallow period following Lesnar’s retirement five years ago, the UFC hit its stride again in the last year on the backs of McGregor and Rousey. With the former just making nice in his dispute with the promotion and the latter enjoying a much-deserved hiatus, the UFC turned to its 265-pound cash cow. His history suggests much milk coming Dana White’s way.

And perhaps White spread a couple of jugs of the white stuff in the WWE’s direction to again secure Lesnar’s services.

“Brock Lesnar remains under contract to WWE, however, he has been granted a one-off opportunity to compete at UFC 200,” the WWE informed Saturday night. “Following this milestone event on July 9, Brock will return to WWE for SummerSlam on Sunday, August 21, live on WWE Network.”

The UFC released a shocking promotional video for UFC 200 Saturday night, which included Lesnar’s familiar voice and physique at the conclusion of the trailer.

The news, actually revealed by Ariel Helwani to the extreme displeasure of UFC honchos, created an immediate buzz. Now attention focuses on Lesnar’s opponent. A competitor, Lesnar likely wishes a fight with a ranked opponent despite the layoff. After all, he accepted a scrap with former UFC champion Frank Mir in his first fight with the promotion, and subsequently tackled a who’s who of the heavyweight division, including Randy Couture, Shane Carwin, Cain Velasquez, and Alistair Overeem.

Aging catch wrestler Josh Barnett called for the Lesnar bout and news of the UFC broadcasting a Fedor Emalienanko bout on its subscription digital outlet unleashed speculation about a long-awaited clash of the MMA titans. But Mark Hunt seems the most likely opponent. The Super Samoan boasts striking power in his hands and feet that can knock out any opponent. But his ground skills remain poor if improving, making a bout with the ground-and-pound wrestler an interesting fight.

If it stays on the feet, advantage Hunt. If it goes to the mat, Lesnar likely wins. So, it’s a winnable bout for both men—and the UFC, too. Hunt’s Cinderella Man-style resurgence, and dramatic walk-off KOs, make him a fan favorite. And Lesnar’s power and professional-wrestler promotional style gives him a massive audience whenever he steps through the WWE ropes or the UFC’s cage door.

The card takes place on July 9 in Las Vegas. The UFC announces the opponent on ESPN today—unless Ariel Helwani again beats the promotion to the punch.


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