Do UFC Fans Finally Respect Brock Lesnar?

When Brock Lesnar finally returned to the Octagon after a five-year absence, it was as if he’d never left. More importantly, it was as if he’d never left the UFC to go back to “fake wrestling” for the WWE. His appearance at the much-hyped UFC 200 was meant to be a face-saving gesture on the part of UFC President Dana White.

The card was deceptively in shambles after former featherweight champion Conor McGregor was cut from UFC 200 over dramatics and a refusal to help promote the event. But the reintroduction of Brock Lesnar proved a welcome opportunity to seemingly prove once and for all that the WWE Superstar did not belong in the world of MMA or hold a place as part of the UFC brand.

Hard-hitting Mark Hunt was chosen as the opponent meant to deliver the message once and for all.

[Photo via Rey Del Rio/Getty Images]

Interestingly, it seemed that Brock Lesnar’s return to the UFC was practically inevitable. MMAJunkie reports that had it not been for an immediate need to fill a huge void at UFC 200, Brock would likely have appeared at UFC 205. The card might see the return of Ronda Rousey against Amanda Nunes, that is if Nunes can hold onto the belt long enough for it to happen. As such, it certainly would have been a great chance to see Brock Lesnar back in action.

However, it’s hard to argue that his spot on UFC 200 against Mark Hunt was anything less than a date with destiny. Lesnar was one of only two men that fought on Saturday – the other was Jim Miller– who’d also appeared at UFC 100.

When Brock Lesnar faced Frank Mir nearly a decade ago, two things were clear: Brock was the much more imposing figure. And yet, UFC fans at the time both expected and wanted Lesnar to lose. He was not welcome. Despite having a very sound foundation as a wrestler, one comparable to other UFC wrestlers, his connection to WWE and brash approach to MMA fighting rubbed many a UFC fan the wrong way.

After a decisive victory over Frank Mir, a chorus of boos rang out. Brock Lesnar responded by flipping off the entire crowd.

Some were wondering how things would shake out at UFC 200. The mood seemed rather similar from the beginning. There was a huge expectation that Mark Hunt, a top-ten UFC heavyweight fighter, would easily handle Brock Lesnar. Again and again, MMA fans were shown images of Hunt knocking out opponents, hyping the belief in this outcome. Hunt’s striking power is undeniable, but Lesnar didn’t seem remotely worried. Even though Lesnar, as FOX Sports reported, only had five weeks to prepare, he spoke as if his victory was an inevitability.

When Lesnar finally faced down Hunt on July 9, it became apparent why he was so confident. Once again, Brock was the heavier man, whose wrestling and strength proved too much for Mark.

Image via Rey Del Rio/Getty Images]

It wasn’t the outcome that UFC fans were expecting, and yet things were different. There was no booing, and obscene gestures were also (thankfully) absent. Brock Lesnar spoke with a maturity and appreciation that shed the image of an arrogant outsider that some fight fans had long associated with him.

What was once a grudging respect seemed to have transformed into a genuine regard. As such, there’s already speculation that Brock, who still has contractual obligations to the WWE, might come back to the UFC at some point. As for Brock Lesnar himself, he didn’t quite rule out the possibility.

“I believe that my future’s already laid out for the next month. I’m doing SummerSlam against Randy Orton. Once the dust settles there I don’t know what I’m going to do. I had one hell of a time tonight and I enjoyed myself so we’ll see what happens. It’s really way too soon.”

What did you think of Brock Lesnar’s UFC 200 return? Do you think he’ll return to fight in the UFC? Share your thoughts below!

[Photos by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images]