Brock Lesnar signed a new deal with World Wrestling Entertainment, and everyone thought that meant his potential return to the sport of mixed martial arts and the UFC was just smoke and mirrors. But as it turns out, his new deal with WWE allows for Lesnar to compete in at least one more match with the UFC. That … kind of sucks. But it also kind of doesn’t?
Stick with me for a moment, we’ll get there together.
Dana White talked previously about Lesnar returning to the UFC, and even said his idea would be to give Lesnar a shot at the winner of the heavyweight title contest between Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier on July 7. Lesnar, despite being generally disliked by a very vocal portion of WWE’s fanbase, and despite his last official MMA win being eight (8!) years ago, is a pay-per-view draw.
The WWE knows it. The UFC knows it. Everybody knows it. But as far as a UFC heavyweight championship shot goes, there are a few positives and a few negatives beyond all of that.
Con: What if he wins the belt?
As far as we know, Lesnar’s deal with WWE allows him one more fight in the UFC. A title fight means more PPV buys, but what happens if he wins the belt? If he has more fights remaining on his contract after that, the UFC still has to deal with a champion who is generally regarded as someone who puts in the minimal effort required.
And, at the worst, if he doesn’t have any fights remaining, the UFC then has to go through Vince McMahon and WWE to negotiate terms of a potential title defense. The length of his new deal with WWE is unknown, but the last thing White would want is McMahon having the upper hand in negotiations.
The UFC can just vacate the belt, but they would then have Lesnar going back to WWE having beaten one of their best and brightest in Cormier or Miocic. It would be a very tough situation to work with.
Pro: He won’t
I’m not here JUST to dump on Lesnar — he is skilled in actual wrestling and can put a real hurting on plenty of MMA fighters — but he doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell at doing what he did to Randy Couture in 2008 to Miocic or Cormier. Anything can happen in MMA, but a Lesnar win would be so shocking for so many reasons that it’s not even necessary for me to go over all of them. But I will summarize:
Cormier (20-1, 1 NC in MMA) is probably a better wrestler. They’re both former NCAA Division I All-Americans in wrestling, but Cormier continued to pursue actual wrestling following his college career, and he’s competed in the sport in the Olympics. Lesnar (5-3, 1 NC) is a little bigger than Cormier, but he won’t be able to muscle him around. They’re equal in strength at worst. And Lesnar’s stand-up game is just awful. He doesn’t have a great chin and he doesn’t react well to adversity in the octagon. Cormier would love to give Lesnar a repeat of what Cain Velasquez gave him in 2010.
Miocic (18-2), at this point in his career, is good enough to avoid Lesnar’s takedowns and to stymie Lesnar’s ground-and-pound (which is certainly damaging, but sloppy) if he does end up on his back. And standing, he’s better than Lesnar (and Cormier, for what it’s worth) by a mile.
Con: He doesn’t deserve a shot at the belt
Lesnar hasn’t won a UFC bout since 2016, when he won a decision over an aging and slowed Mark Hunt, and that fight was overturned when Lesnar tested positive for clomiphene, a banned hormone and metabolic modulator by the World Anti-Doping Agency. It was ruled a no contest, making his last official win a submission victory against Shane Carwin on July 3, 2010.
Carwin was completely gassed and basically did everything he could to lose that fight. Prior to that, he beat an aging Frank Mir, who is also responsible for an earlier loss for Lesnar, and an extremely-aging Couture for the title. That title shot came after a lackluster decision win over Heath Herring, who was never a great fighter, which itself came after the aforementioned loss to Mir in Lesnar’s second ever MMA bout.
Lesnar was considered unworthy by many at the time he fought for the belt the first time, and even after winning it, he did so during a pretty bad period for the division overall.
Since his last win, he suffered first-round knockouts at the hands of Cain Velasquez and Alistair Overeem. Miocic has beaten Overeem, by knockout, while Cormier would likely be favored over both of them.
Pro: Cormier or Miocic destroying him would be cathartic
I know I’m not alone in this one. I don’t hate Lesnar because I don’t know Lesnar, but I sure don’t like him and I sure don’t like it when sports I enjoy are devalued in any way. Seeing him, a passable MMA heavyweight getting an unjustified title shot, get beat down by one of the best in the sport would simply leave me tickled.
I don’t want them to give the man a serious injury that ruins his life, but a good dose of what he gave a way-past-his-prime Couture from Cormier is the realest drug for me in 2018.
Pro: PPV buys equal exposure for better fighters
Whoever else is on a Lesnar card, including heavyweights from the current UFC rankings who might be snubbed for a title shot due to Lesnar’s presence, would be part of what would surely be one of the most lucrative UFC PPV’s ever. A title fight might be better for some of the heavyweights, but everyone involved in that fantasy card would get plenty of eyeballs, and that’s big.
Pro: The UFC knows how to put on a good card even when everything falls apart
And finally, we are coming off one of the most ridiculous weeks in MMA history where Conor McGregor attacked a UFC bus carrying multiple fighters from the UFC 223 fight card, presumably because it was carrying Khabib Nurmagomedov. McGregor, potentially the biggest name in the sport, was charged with three counts of assault as a result.
Nurmagomedov was set to fight for the UFC lightweight championship, which was stripped from McGregor, against Tony Ferguson, who had to back out of the fight for the fourth time due to unrelated injuries. Then Ferguson’s replacement, Max Holloway, was deemed medically unfit to compete.
Two more names — Paul Felder and Anthony Pettis — fell through before the final main event of Nurmagomedov vs. Al Iaquinta was put in place. Two other fights from that card were dropped due to injuries sustained from glass shards when McGregor threw a dolly through a window of the bus.
And in the end, it was still an extremely entertaining card. If the UFC can survive that, it can survive — and thrive in spite of — whatever negatives come from a Lesnar return.