A lot went down in mixed martial arts last Saturday. Mega underdog Michael Bisping upset champion Luke Rockhold for the UFC middleweight championship and the highly anticipated rematch between Nate Diaz and Conor McGregor was officially announced for UFC 202 in September. However, these huge MMA headlines took a back seat to the leaked news that current WWE Superstar Brock Lesnar will be returning to UFC at its biggest show ever: UFC 200 taking place July 9, 2016 in Las Vegas. He will be facing the #8 heavyweight in the world in New Zealand’s Mark Hunt. The card already features the most highly anticipated rematch in UFC history with Jon Jones facing Daniel Cormier.
Many UFC and WWE fans were excited and confused by this announcement. There is no denying Lesnar’s cross-promotion appeal. His UFC 100 fight with Frank Mir is still the highest selling pay-per-view in UFC history. As for WWE, every one of their highest grossing events of the past few years has featured Lesnar. However, In March 2015 Lesnar announced on his WWE return interview on ESPN that he was done with UFC. “I’m officially closing the door on UFC,” he told Michelle Beadle. But now he says he has been training for months and asked two months ago if Dana White would let him fight at UFC 200.
For those not familiar, Lesnar has climbed the mountain in both the competitive sports arena of MMA and the high-flying combat theater that is professional wrestling. He won both the junior college and NCAA national championships (with an overall record of 106-5 in his college career). He is a multiple-time World Heavyweight Champion in WWE and UFC. He is currently under contract with WWE, and his character is the most dominant force on the roster, and he has not been pinned cleanly in over 12 years.
It’s hard to blame Lesnar for wanting to return to MMA. Following his meteoric rise to becoming UFC heavyweight champion, his career went downhill. He battled diverticulitis and lost a ton of weight (not to mention 12-inches of his colon in an operation). Consequently, his last two matches were losses to Cain Velasquez and Alistair Overeem. Suggesting that he left the world of MMA with a bad taste in his mouth would be an understatement. His WWE contract is very lucrative and his part-time schedule makes it almost too good to be true. However, being the mayor of “Suplex City” is evidently not enough for the 38-year-old.
Now that we know he is returning, let’s look at the three major ways that this can play out for both WWE and UFC.
The Good: Lesnar Dominates
The best-case scenario for UFC, WWE and Brock Lesnar would be a knockout or submission win. Dominating a highly ranked UFC opponent with little specific training and a long absence from the UFC would make Lesnar look super human. Let’s face it, who really cares that wrestling is fake if their part-timer can beat a full-time UFC contender in a real fight? A dominant Lesnar would mean major dollar signs to both UFC and WWE as Lesnar could move on towards an ultimate goal of dual champion. Lesnar would certainly be a fight away from a title shot in the watered down UFC heavyweight division. The cross promotion would be endless and lend tons of credibility to WWE.
The Bad: A Lackluster Fight
Regardless of who wins, a boring or amateur-looking fight would be bad for WWE. If the man dubbed “The Beast Incarnate” rolls around for three rounds without any major action, win or lose, it would hurt his reputation. Fans tend to boo when big ticket fights fail to deliver the excitement they expect. The idea of Lesnar as a dominating offensive force would no longer be the driving theory. Also, a so-so performance against Hunt looks less impressive aesthetically as he is not the typical ripped opponent like Roman Reigns or John Cena whom Lesnar would be competing with in WWE. Hunt is a little roly-poly looking. Clearly not a weight room freak. Lesnar will look like he should tear him apart (especially to fans of WWE). A mediocre performance would be bad news for anyone wishing to push the narrative of Lesnar’s utter dominance.
The Ugly: Lesnar Gets Dominated
If Lesnar looking mediocre is bad, how much worse is it for WWE if he gets beaten down? It is clear that WWE is often the butt of jokes from MMA fighters and fans referring to them as fake or a lower level of talent. WWE prefers the term “scripted” and sticks to the claim that their athletes are as good as anyone around. Their top guy getting man-handled by a good but not great UFC fighter would throw shade on that theory. It would kill his credibility in both UFC and WWE.
There is no doubt that UFC 200 will be the most watched night in MMA history. Nine current or former champions will be fighting. Three titles are on the line. However, both WWE and UFC might have the most at risk in a non-title match between a 12-10-1 veteran and a 5-3 resident of the squared circle who has not entered the octagon in over four years.