Brock Lesnar. Does the name ring a bell? If you are a WWE fan, then yes. That’s because the Beast Incarnate is one of the most accomplished wrestlers in WWE history.But if you are also an MMA fan and have followed the sport before the Conor McGregor era, then you also know Brock Lesnar because he was once the UFC’s heavyweight champion.
Lesnar retired from the UFC in 2011 after losing his belt to Cain Velasquez and getting knocked out by Alistair Overeem in his next fight. He made a one-fight comeback at the iconic UFC 200 in 2016 , defeating Mark Hunt. But a doping violation and subsequent suspension prevented him from fighting again. However, the suspension has lapsed and Lesnar is eligible to fight again. At age 41, he is reportedly coming back to fight current UFC heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier in a PPV event this coming August. The UFC’s decision to grant Lesnar a title shot has created controversy and some confusion. With at least 15 heavyweights ranked ahead of him in the UFC’s official rankings, why is Brock Lesnar getting priority to fight Daniel Cormier for the UFC heavyweight title?
Let’s take a look at Brock Lesnar and his journey to the top of the UFC and the WWE.
An All-American Wrestler
Brock Edward Lesnar was born on July 12, 1977 in Webster, South Dakota to Stephanie and Richard Lesnar. He took up wrestling at Webster High School and placed third in the state championship during his senior year. Brock would then win the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) heavyweight wrestling championship during his sophomore year at Bismarck State College.
Lesnar transferred to the University of Minnesota for his junior and senior years. After losing to Stephen Neal in the 1999 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I heavyweight wrestling championship, Lesnar would redeem himself and win the title in his senior year. A two-time All-American, Lesnar would finish his amateur wrestling career with a record of 106-5.
After college, Lesnar signed with the World Wrestling Entertainment, via their developmental league in the Ohio Valley Wrestling. At OVW, he would team up with former college roommate Shelton Benjamin and the pair would go on to win the OVW Southern Tag Team title before being called up to join the WWE’s main roster in 2002. The rest they say is, history.
Rise To Superstardom
Five months after his debut on the WWE’s main roster, Lesnar would win the WWE Championship. At age 25, he became the youngest to ever win the belt. Lesnar would also become the WWE King of the Ring in 2002 and he would win the Royal Rumble in 2003. After his epic bout with Goldberg at Wrestlemania XX, Lesnar would leave the WWE to pursue his ambition of becoming an NFL player. However, after being cut by the Minnesota Vikings prior to the start of the 2004 season, Lesnar would return to professional wrestling and join the New Japan Pro-Wrestling promotion where he would win the IWGP Heavyweight championship in his debut. A contractual dispute led him to MMA as Lesnar would try his luck with Japan’s Hero promotion. That venture ultimately led him to the UFC which he took by storm just as he did the WWE.
Lesnar lost his first UFC bout against Frank Mir but won his second bout against Heath Herring. Because of his popularity as a former WWE superstar and champion, he would earn a title shot in only his third UFC bout. At UFC 91, Lesnar knocked out the legendary Randy Couture to win the UFC heavyweight title, doing so in fewer fights than any champion in UFC history.
Brock Lesnar would get his revenge when he knocked out Frank Mir in his first title defense. He would successfully retain the UFC heavyweight title belt a second time after submitting Shane Carwin. However, Lesnar would get knocked out by Cain Velasquez at UFC 121 and he would announce his retirement after losing via knockout to Alistair Overeem at UFC 141 in December 2011.
He would return to the WWE as the Beast Incarnate after his UFC retirement and his star never shone brighter. At Wrestlemania XXX, Lesnar snapped the Undertaker’s 21 fight unbeaten streak at Wrestlemania. After that he would become world champion three times with his first reign as WWE universal champion the longest since 1988.
In 2016, Lesnar returned to the UFC for a one-fight gig. He faced Mark Hunt in the co-main event of the iconic UFC 200, the UFC’s 200th show at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Lesnar would beat Hunt via decision but the victory was overturned to a no-contest after he tested positive for the banned substance clomiphene. Lesnar was fined $250,0000 and suspended for a year. He retired from MMA a second time.
Despite enjoying plenty of success in the WWE, the rumors of Lesnar returning to the UFC refused to die. After Daniel Cormier’s win over Stipe Miocic at UFC 226, Lesnar entered the octagon and challenged Cormier. The scene look staged, WWE style, and after that, UFC President Dana White said that he’d love to book a fight between DC and Lesnar. Cormier was supposed to retire this month but postponed it, hoping he could get a fight with Brock Lesnar. Just recently, White announced that the plan is to book the pair to an August showdown.
Why Brock Lesnar?
Despite Daniel Cormier himself insisting that Lesnar is “very deserving” of a title fight, the only reason why the UFC wants Lesnar back is because of business. When it was sold for $4B in 2017, the UFC was at its commercial peak. The women’s scene was still enjoying the fruits of Ronda Rousey’s success, even if Rowdy last fought in 2016. On the other hand, Conor McGregor meteorically rose to superstardom and along with him, he took the UFC to new heights. But after McGregor fought Floyd Mayweather Jr. in a boxing match in 2017, he took a long leave of absence and has fought just once since then. With Rousey moving to professional wrestling, there has been a superstar void in the women’s division.
The UFC tried to resurrect former welterweight king and PPV star Georges St. Pierre but after beating Michael Bisping to win the UFC middleweight title, GSP has decided to retire again. McGregor returned to fight Khabib Nurmagomedov for the UFC lightweight title and the UFC had its first 1M PPV event since McGregor’s last UFC bout. UFC 229 was one of the UFC’s biggest hits ever but with McGregor losing, his stock took a hit as well.
That’s where Brock Lesnar comes in. You see, in the history of the UFC, there have been only a handful of pay per view stars: Tito Ortiz, Chuck Liddell, Georges St. Pierre, Ronda Rousey, Conor McGregor and then Brock Lesnar. Every fighter on that list is retired except McGregor. However, Lesnar has stated that he wants to comeback, claiming that his UFC career was cut short due to his battle with diverticulitis. Now that he’s healthy, he wants on more crack at gold. Or at least he says so.
Brock Lesnar PPV Star
Lesnar’s drawing power in both undeniable and incomparable. Before McGregor came, Lesnar wa the UFC’s biggest PPV superstar. He fought a total of eight times in the UFC and all bouts were in pay per view events. Lesnar headlined five of those events and was in the co-main event status in the remaining three bouts. Five of those events had at least 1M PPV buys and the remaining three had at least 600K PPV hits. In total, eight Brock Lesnar fights drew a total of 7.5M PPV buys.
In contrast the UFC had an average of 650K PPV buys in 2016 when McGregor fought thrice and Rousey once. The following year, that number dropped sharply to 339K because Rousey had retired and McGregor sat out the entire year. In 2018, the UFC’s PPV numbers increased to 447K but that was mainly because McGregor’s UFC 229 raked in an all-time high of 2.4M PPV buys. Take out McGregor from the equation, and the UFC isn’t making enough money to deserve its $4B price tag. Jon Jones vs Gustafsson 2 at UFC 232 did 700K buys. Good but not great.
Even at age 41, Brock Lesnar would draw more PPV buys than a prime Jon Jones would. And to think Jones is the UFC’s biggest star after McGregor,then the UFC really needs Brock Lesnar to pull up the PPV cards. Lesnar is a proven draw-win or lose. That’s the real reason why Dana White wants him back. Nobody makes more PPV numbers than Lesnar. Only McGregor does and with the Irishman still out and having other personal issues, the UFC needs a go-to-cash cow. There is no bigger cow out there than the heavyweight Lesnar.
Lesnar’s defeat at the recent Wrestlemania only means that he isn’t part of the WWE’s next storylines. His contract with the WWE also expired at Wrestlemania 35 too so he is now a free agent as well. You bet Dana White and the UFC are working double-time right now trying to get him a new deal. The UFC needs Lesnar badly to perk up those PPV numbers.