In an unprecedented move, current WWE superstar Brock Lesnar was announced as a part of Ultimate Fight Championship’s (UFC) upcoming UFC 200 mega show. Along with Daniel Cormier vs. Jon Jones, Miesha Tate vs. Amanda Nunes and Jose Aldo vs. Frankie Edgar, Lesnar’s return gives the UFC a huge attraction.
Lesnar, 38, has not competed in mixed martial arts (MMA) since December 2011, when he lost to Alistair Overeem at UFC 141. After years of rumors and speculation about a possible return, Lesnar appeared on ESPN’s SportsCenter this week, announcing that he will face Mark Hunt, the 8th ranked heavyweight, on July 9. He also confirmed that, despite his comments earlier this year, his desire to compete in the octagon never went away.
— ESPN (@espn) June 6, 2016
Diverticulitis, an intestinal disease, was the culprit in ending Lesnar’s MMA career; Lesnar said on SportsCenter that he felt “cheated” out of his career. But at the core of it, Lesnar said he’s heading back to UFC as a fighter simply because he wants to.
That’s where his dominance over the WWE is clear.
Since returning to the company the night after Wrestlemania 28, Lesnar has been afforded certain privileges that are reserved for top stars. He essentially brought over his MMA persona to the WWE, competing in fight shorts and gloves. However, splattered all over his gear are sponsors, such as Jimmy John’s, Rocky Mountain Dealerships, and Case Agriculture.
Former WWE superstar and MMA fighter-in-training Phil “CM Punk” Brooks said on the now-controversial Art of Wrestling podcast in 2014 that he had opportunities to be sponsored following his historic “pipebomb” promo in 2011.
However, WWE chairman Vince McMahon did not permit Brooks to don sponsors on his gear. He felt that Brooks having that privilege would anger existing sponsors of the company’s flagship show, Monday Night RAW, and anger fellow wrestlers. Not wanting to argue with the boss, Brooks did not force the issue.
“Cue a year later, Brock Lesnar comes back and the mother*****r has sponsors,” Brooks said on the podcast. “And that’s good because Brock got that, good for him.”
In a separate incident, Brooks was set to walk former UFC fighter Chael Sonnen to the octagon before his fight against Michael Bisping at UFC on Fox 2 in Chicago, Illinois. However, McMahon felt that having the WWE champion associated with a “barbaric” sport and that “somebody is going to die” at the event.
Brock Lesnar won the heavyweight belt at UFC 91 in 2008 and lost it at UFC 121 in 2010. pic.twitter.com/ZXg7IUfW3W
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 5, 2016
When Lesnar approached McMahon about returning for what is being called a “one-off” fight, Lesnar said McMahon had no reservations about approving his request.
Brooks added that McMahon scoffed at the UFC’s plans at the time to feature women fighting in the octagon.
Now, with Lesnar set to return to UFC with WWE’s approval, Forbes is reporting that Ronda Rousey is in the company’s plans for a Wrestlemania 33 match. Fellow female fighter Paige VanZant is in talks with WWE to make an appearance at SummerSlam, according to FOX Sports.
— WWE (@WWE) June 6, 2016
Lesnar is the only person on the WWE roster who can go compete in a real fight and then return to WWE to sports entertain. Alberto Del Rio is the only other person in WWE with significant MMA experience but is nowhere near Lesnar’s level in terms of box office appeal.
By appearing at UFC, Lesnar generates huge business for both companies. He made a point of explaining the dollar signs that accompany his name being on the marquee.
“Nobody called me, it was nobody else’s idea,” Lesnar said. “It’s simple, it’s big business, it’s billionaire business; so why wouldn’t they want Brock Lesnar involved?”
Lesnar announced last year that he re-signed with WWE. While the terms were not disclosed at the time, it’s believed he signed a three-year deal. Since returning to WWE in 2012, Lesnar has remained on a part-time schedule while making full-time pay; competing in just 20 televised matches.
Lesnar’s situation with WWE is a direct result of his successful first stint with UFC. He made a name for himself outside of WWE big enough that when he returned, it was on his terms and conditions. Now, he’s in a position to do both jobs and be paid handsomely for it. And no matter if he loses or wins his bout versus Hunt, he has a direction moving forward.
“I’m a crossover athlete, I’m a modern-day Bo Jackson, people,” Lesnar said.
[Featured Photo JP Yim/Getty Images]