We seem to do this song and dance every year. Brock Lesnar’s name comes up. His possible return to MMA comes up. Then the talk fades, as if the buzz surrounding a Lesnar return to MMA has gone into hibernation to be discussed another day.
There is one major difference this time around, however. While we usually talk about Lesnar returning to MMA, we normally discuss him returning to his old stomping grounds of the UFC. This time, though, a new promotion has risen and thrown its hat into the ring. That promotion is Bellator MMA.
“I would say, look, any fighter that’s out there or any star athlete—not star athlete in the sense of a baseball player, but like a Brock Lesnar—that really wants to fight, we’re going to have a conversation with them. Because if they can move the needle, we’re going to want them on Spike TV,” Bellator president Scott Coker said on The MMA Hour.
And so another former UFC champion is being discussed as a possibility to join Bellator. This would be a much bigger splash than Bellator’s signings of Tito Ortiz or Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. This would be something totally different.
It’s no secret that Lesnar is a huge draw. Regardless of the broadcast platform, be it pay-per-view or free television, the 37-year-old will bring in the viewers. With Bellator 131, the company proved it will go far to draw in viewers, even if it means relegating a championship fight to the co-main event behind a grudge match between two veterans. If Coker and company will go that far, then why not pursue a superstar like Lesnar?
It would make sense for Lesnar to go to Bellator if he wants a return. A move to Bellator would most likely mean a huge payday for the heavyweight. Plus, if Lesnar wants to ease his way back into MMA, why not go into the very, very shallow heavyweight division that Bellator possesses? Money plus easy return equals a great option for a man who did not look like the killer he was early in his career when he faced Cain Velasquez and Alistair Overeem later in his career.
In the end, we would also have the potential for a real, non-scripted version of Lesnar vs. Bobby Lashley, another former WWE superstar turned mixed martial artist.
Jokes aside, Lesnar would be a huge coup for Bellator. If a promotion is going to go toe-to-toe with the UFC, Lesnar is a very good man to have in your corner.
Yet, if Lesnar does come back, it will not be with Bellator. For as much sense as the Lesnar-Bellator relationship makes, Lesnar is probably more interested in a paycheck than he is in cementing his legacy as a fighter. The UFC is his home, and his relationship with the UFC brass will most certainly help in bringing him back to the world of MMA.
Lesnar’s contract with the WWE is running up and two competing MMA organizations have interest in bringing the former UFC heavyweight champion into the fold. The situation is perfect for Lesnar. He is getting a great amount of leverage. If the UFC does not want to pay, Bellator will most likely do so (though both will have to compete with Lesnar’s current employer, the WWE). The UFC will not risk losing a guaranteed big draw to its rival in an era where pay-per-view numbers are down, especially since Lesnar’s situation is different from those of Rampage and Ortiz. Lesnar can still most likely be a top-10 fighter in his weight class. He probably will not be a champion again, sure, but he is still one of the better fighters in his division.
It will ultimately come down to the UFC and WWE for Lesnar’s services. MMA seems like a longshot from here after the physical punishment Lesnar endured in his last two fights and his struggles with diverticulitis during his previous run in the UFC. However, if push comes to shove, the UFC would certainly go out of its own way to lock up Lesnar. Maybe some undisclosed bonuses would be thrown his way on top of the already fat paycheck he is almost assured if he returns to the cage.
Lesnar’s relationship with the UFC and the fact that risking Lesnar being used as a counter-programming measure by Bellator is reason enough to see Lesnar returning to the UFC. As UFC President Dana White put it, “Brock Lesnar wouldn’t go to Bellator.” For as much sense as it seems to make, it really is nonsense. If Lesnar does come back, Bellator would be nothing more than leverage.