He’s the one in 21-1. He’s also the one that MMA fans and brass can’t seen to move on from.
That man is, of course, current WWE star and former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar. One of the most freakish athletes to compete in sports entertainment and MMA, Lesnar possesses all the qualities a promoter could ask for. At 6-foot-3 and well over 280 pounds of muscle, he has the physical look that screams “larger than life,” but he also has the quickness of someone half his size. Simply put, guys who are Lesnar’s size are not supposed to move with the ease that he does. Lesnar, with an NCAA Division I wrestling championship to his credit, also has the credentials to complement his physical gifts.
The rare combination of looks and athletic ability gained Lesnar a chance to make a living in the biggest professional wrestling organization in the world, the WWE. Lesnar burst onto the scene and quickly became the WWE world champion. He wasn’t the best on the mic, but that’s not what drew the fans in. His ability to do things that seemed impossible, that was his drawing factor. One of the highlight moments that reflects this was his superplex of The Big Show that broke the ring. Lesnar put on some of the most entertaining matches in recent memory, and with Paul Heyman becoming the perfect mouthpiece, Lesnar was one of the company’s biggest draws.
However, Lesnar did not grow up in the industry. Where other guys had the wrestling business in their blood, Lesnar stood apart. He did not embrace the lifestyle that came along with being a major star in WWE. Notoriously recluse in his personal life, Lesnar quit the WWE, attributing his career change to a dislike of the daily grind of the WWE schedule. The former WWE champion attempted to make a career in the NFL but that never really worked out. Facing a suddenly short list of options for a career path, Lesnar embarked into a profession in mixed martial arts. After only one professional fight, he signed on with the UFC.
Making his promotional debut at UFC 81, Lesnar would lose to Frank Mir, but you’d never know by the storylines emerging from the fight. Lesnar had come in and nearly defeated a guy in Mir who was widely regarded as one of MMA’s best in the heavyweight division. Lesnar went on to completely dominate Heath Herring in his next outing and found himself in a UFC title match with MMA legend Randy Couture. Did Lesnar deserve to be placed into a title match that quickly? Definitely not. But the fans wanted to see Lesnar in the title picture and the UFC ultimately aims to provide the match-ups fans want, regardless of who warrants a place at the top.
Lesnar’s run in the UFC would be mired by his battle with diverticulitis, but Lesnar became on of the biggest stars in the sport before injuries and the illness forced him to retire. He headlined the company’s biggest show, UFC 100, and drew in not only MMA fans, but also fans of the WWE. His crossover appeal has never been matched and nobody outside of Georges St-Pierre ever came close enough to draw the type of numbers Lesnar could bring in.
That’s why UFC President Dana White still expresses interest in Lesnar despite the fact he’s under contract with the WWE. Most MMA fans will remember Lesnar for the way his career ended, but the man remains a bonafide draw.
The UFC has struggled to garner anything close to the buy rates of a few years ago. Lesnar is often talked about as one of the “pay-per-view kings” that carried the company during its golden era of pay-per-view numbers. One can’t blame the UFC and White for wanting to bring back a guy who has made the company a lot of money and could probably make the UFC even more money if he returned.
But Lesnar coming back to the UFC is nothing more than a pipe dream, and it’s time for people to move on.
Lesnar is currently in the perfect situation. He only has to work a few dates a year, doesn’t have to go on the road to do house shows every night, and doesn’t have to worry about another 265-pound man attempting to take his head off. Lesnar is the current WWE World Heavyweight champion, but he’s not even the company’s biggest star. Lesnar is getting the best of both worlds by receiving the treatment afforded to one of the WWE’s top talents, without all the negatives that come with a typical pro wrestling career. Why would he trade millions of dollars and an easy schedule for the rigors of a fight camp and having to worry about things like brain damage or weight cuts that come with competing in MMA?
There’s also the fact that Lesnar’s last few fights in the UFC were anything but spectacular. Lesnar was able to retain his UFC heavyweight title in a battle of titans against Shane Carwin but only by the slimmest of margins. His aura of invincibility was completely shattered with his next fight against Cain Velasquez in which Velasquez made Lesnar “dance” from one side of the Octagon to the other. Lesnar would attempt to remain relevant, but a body kick from Alistair Overeem quickly put an end to those hopes. It’s not exactly the way one would want to hang up their gloves, but that’s the way a lot of MMA fans remember Lesnar—as a guy who had the larger-than-life image but couldn’t hang once the leather started slinging.
At 37 years of age, Lesnar isn’t in the prime of his career, but he also doesn’t have the normal wear and tear that someone his age usually has. He could hang with and defeat a few names on the shallow UFC heavyweight roster, but the UFC wouldn’t bring him back to be a gatekeeper. Odds are Lesnar would be shot up the rankings and into high-profile fights immediately. While Lesnar would likely be the favorite over a number of guys in the middle of the pack, there are very few fighters competing in the upper half of the division who would come in as underdogs against Lesnar.
Lesnar is a huge star and could draw fans into whatever he does. The UFC is struggling to create new stars and would undoubtedly love to have Lesnar back. However, it’s not the proper place for Lesnar to have success in his professional life. He’s been built up as an unstoppable force in WWE, and that’s a much better legacy than the one where he cowers in agony in the Octagon against the likes of Velasquez and other elite heavyweights. If you’re a fan of Lesnar and MMA, you should dismiss the idea of him strapping on the four-ounce gloves again. Instead, enjoy his last few years of creating spectacles inside the squared circle, because his days of competing in the Octagon are long over.