Unless you have been living under a rock for the past 24 hours, Brock Lesnar will be returning to the octagon for UFC 200 next month in Las Vegas. No doubt, it was a massive shock to fans when the rumor started to leak early Saturday. All the questions immediately started flooding in, and *some* of that suspicions were later confirmed by UFC and WWE later in the evening. How this effects both companies going forward and the person (Brock) will remain to be seen. Until then, let's sort out this huge piece of news...
Did WWE know About It? - Obviously. They have Brock Lesnar under contract. Anything he does has to be either run by them or at least given the okay in some form. The Wrestling Observer was quick to point out that WWE has approved this move. ESPN and other outlets also said as such. Again, Lesnar is under a WWE contract, so yeah, the company was well aware of what was going on.
When Did Brock And UFC Start Negotiating? - Well, remember that Brock Lesnar was strongly considering a return to the UFC over a year ago when his contract with WWE was up. Ultimately, he stuck to wrestling and announced his re-signing days before WrestleMania 31 in March 2015. The itch was still there for Lesnar to scratch though. When he and UFC began talking AGAIN - who knows? I would assume it had to have been earlier in 2016 because Brock has disappeared from all things WWE since early April. Clearly, that was to train for this UFC fight and stay out of the public eye.
The exact date everything was signed, sealed, and delivered...we may never know. The rumor just got out over the weekend, hours before it was announced. Do keep in mind that on May 21, 2016 Brock Lesnar was added to the UFC roster page and then promptly deleted. Dana White (UFC President) laughed it off as just a mistake by the web team, but hindsight tells us it may have been someone jumping the gun on an official announced. I am going to guess that is around the time frame a deal was finalized.
Who Is Brock Lesnar Fighting? - That will be revealed Monday on ESPN. Very interesting it is Monday...on ESPN. Isn't WWE the one working closely with ESPN? Isn't RAW on Mondays? Hopefully, the announcement is in the afternoon. Would be pretty gutsy of Brock Lesnar and UFC to do it against Raw. The Twitter world tends to believe his opponent is Mark Hunt. That is kinda 'meh' to me, but then again, who is there really? All of this is about Brock Lesnar fighting one last time in UFC. Truthfully, nobody cares WHO the opponent will be as long as Brock fights. That is the big sales pitch for UFC 200.
Is CM Punk Fighting Too? - No clue. He was signed back in late 2014 in a clear publicity stunt, and unfortunately, that has yet to pay off. Brock Lesnar gets signed and is instantly going to be on the big card for their largest pay-per-view event (possibly) in history. In barely a month's time. Yet, Punk is still out. In my mind, it just shows me two things:
First is how difficult it is to be a 'real athlete' competing in combat sports AND also to perform in sports entertainment. Brock has been doing this his whole life and can jump from one sport to another. Punk has been in professional wrestling his whole life...and well, that's it. We are seeing now how hard it is just to make it.
Secondly, it tells me UFC was DESPERATE for a huge boost to UFC 200. Ronda Rousey was out. Others were injured or suspended, and as the world know, Conor Mcgregor was taken off the card due to a little dispute. That left Dana White in a tough, tough spot. All due respect to the other fighters, but UFC 200 needed a big jolt to the system.
That meant a Brock Lesnar farewell fight.
Why Now Though? - Besides the fact that Brock is in the middle of his usual hiatus? Easy...UFC needed him to come back.
No different than Wrestlemania 32 earlier this year. Sting was done. Daniel Bryan was retired. The Rock couldn't be around full-time. John Cena was hurt. Seth Rollins was hurt. Randy Orton was hurt. Cesaro, Tyson Kidd, and countless others were on the shelf.
What did WWE do?
They called Shane FREAKIN' McMahon to return and save the day.
As amazing as it was, that was what it came down to for WWE. Fast forward a few months, and UFC was scarping the bottom of the barrel for a draw to the mainstream audience. UFC 200 was just saved by Brock Lesnar folks.
Is He Leaving WWE? - No. He is still under contract. As noted above, this was just a right place, right time type of situation. The official WWE website calls this a "one-off opportunity" and notes he will return to WWE at Summerslam in August. In other words, no change for his current wrestling arrangement. We all expected him to be gone from Raw and Smackdown until Summerslam, and that is what we will get. Brock was/is ready to take on a final UFC battle and will then be primed up for a WWE story line leading to Summerslam. Right on schedule.
What Is WWE Getting Out Of This? - This is the million dollar question. Maybe WWE is just being nice to Brock Lesnar and letting him close the fighting chapter of his book...but likely not. Vince McMahon and Dana White are not going to do this without an incentive for both sides. Clearly, UFC is going to see a massive PPV number come July, which is great for them. What about WWE then? What is their benefit to allow a contracted performer to get in the octagon and potentially get hurt?
Three ideas come to mind immediately.
1. WWE would get a Ronda Rousey match at Wrestlemania 33. Basically, you get Brock; we get Rousey - deal? That would seem like the simplest answer.
2. WWE would get a cut of the UFC 200 PPV money. Seems far fetched, doesn't it? The assumption is UFC 200 will do well over one million PPV buys and aim for the company record of 1.5 million buys (by Brock Lesnar years ago ironically). Even if WWE gets 10% of that or something, it is worth it to them.
3. My final idea (and the most likely choice) is just a simple cross-promotion deal. UFC promotes SummerSlam in August, while WWE promotes Brock Lesnar's return fight. I mean, Dana White has stated on multiple occasions that he and Vince have talked business. The two sides even allowed Brock Lesnar to promote a WWE video game while he was still in UFC. That was years ago, but my point stands - the two companies have been able to "play nice" before. This may just be a case of them helping each other out for a month and then moving on.
How Is Any Of This Possible? - Nobody knows what the heck is going on except WWE, Brock Lesnar, and UFC. Welcome to 2016 folks! AJ Styles is wrestling John Cena, Roman Reigns, and Chris Jericho. Samoa Joe, Austin Aries, Shinsuke Nakamura, and others are tearing it up in NXT. Smackdown is going live, WWE is bringing back the brand split, and Brock Lesnar is returning to the UFC for one last fight. Never say never indeed...
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