Will the WWE’s money woes send Brock Lesnar back to the UFC?

In 2012, following the loss of his UFC title to Cain Velasquez and a crushing loss to Alistair Overeem, Brock Lesnar returned to the…

By: Nate Wilcox | 9 years ago
Will the WWE’s money woes send Brock Lesnar back to the UFC?
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In 2012, following the loss of his UFC title to Cain Velasquez and a crushing loss to Alistair Overeem, Brock Lesnar returned to the WWE for a reported $5 million per year. Now thanks to the WWE’s disastrous attempt to migrate from PPV to an internet subscription model, he might be worth more to the UFC than he is to Vince McMahon.

This isn’t as silly as it sounds.

Despite being 38-years-old and having gone out more like a lamb than a lion, Lesnar is one of the only fighters in the world who could make an immediate bottom-line difference for the UFC. Following a brutal 2014, MMA’s top promotion is in need of proven PPV draws.

No new wave of UFC stars has emerged to replace Lesnar, Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre. Champs Cain Velasquez, Jon Jones, Chris Weidman, Johny Hendricks and Anthony Pettis have spent more time in surgery than in the Octagon. Ronda Rousey gets a lot of interest but remains unproven as a PPV draw.

So it’s looking like the UFC’s plan for 2015 is a back to the future strategy, with Anderson Silva (hopefully) returning against Nick Diaz in January, negotiations with GSP reportedly in progress and possibly Brock Lesnar returning.

Here’s what Geno Mrosko said about the state of Lesnar at Cageside Seats:

Lesnar, though he may not look it, is a savvy businessman with great representation. He’s already leveraging WWE against a possible return to the UFC for another run in its heavyweight division.

Lesnar’s last run in the UFC ended with two consecutive first round knockout losses to Cain Velasquez — who still holds the heavyweight championship — and Alistair Overeem, respectively. Typically, losing in such convincing fashion would kill any fighter’s drawing power, but both Lesnar and UFC President Dana White have been working the angle that Lesnar never fully recovered from his various bouts with diverticulitis.

On cue, here’s Dana White talking up the possibilities of a healthy Lesnar returning:

“I have a great relationship with Brock, we talk all the time. I don’t know, we’ll see. If he wants to fight, he knows my number. … It’s pretty amazing what he did and accomplished here while having diverticulitis. It would be interesting to see a 100 percent healthy Brock Lesnar compete.”

Dave Meltzer has more insight as to why Lesnar may be worth a lot more to the UFC than the WWE in 2015:

The WWE in 2015 is in a very different place than it was in during 2011, when Lesnar was offered a reported $5 million per year to return on a limited schedule. That company turned a $24 million profit in 2011. Today’s company, almost entirely due to the gamble of starting its own network, which has nearly killed its pay-per-view business, as well as cut down on its own web site income significantly, is, based on current projections, looking at $40 million in losses this year.

Worse, the creation of the network has killed any affect he’d have on pay-per-view numbers. In July, the last show WWE did without him, they did 31,000 U.S. buys on pay-per-view. While they did 63,000 in August with him, that was SummerSlam, a show that would be expected to be way up, the September show he headlined was only 30,000.

From a business standpoint, Lesnar was a huge draw for UFC. UFC is struggling on pay-per-view this year due to a ridiculous amount of injuries and loss of people like Georges St-Pierre, Wanderlei Silva and Chael Sonnen for a variety of reasons. The Lesnar who showed up on their doorstep in 2007 asking for a chance, and became the company’s biggest drawing card for the next three years, would be a godsend.

While its reasonably certain Lesnar’s return would dramatically improve the UFC’s PPV buy rate for at least one fight, the question becomes whether the UFC can find credible opponents for Lesnar and whether or not he can still compete.

We’re about to witness a 40-year-old Mark Hunt face 38-year-old Fabricio Werdum for the UFC interim title so it’s clear the UFC’s Heavyweight division is paper-thin. Is there a place for Brock Lesnar in the UFC? Time will tell.

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About the author
Nate Wilcox
Nate Wilcox

Nate Wilcox is the founding editor of BloodyElbow.com. As such he has hired every editor and writer to work for the site. Wilcox’s writing for BE is known for its emphasis on MMA history, the evolution of fighting techniques and strong opinions. Wilcox developed the SBN MMA consensus rankings which were featured in USA Today from 2009 to 2011. Before founding BE, Wilcox was a political operative working for such figures as Senators John Kerry and Mark Warner and an early political blogger. He is the co-author of Netroots Rising, a history of the political blogosphere from 2003 to 2007. Wilcox also hosts the Let It Roll podcast on music history for the Pantheon Podcast Network.

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