In what I can only say was most unexpected, news came out over the weekend that WWE Superstar-and former UFC Heavyweight Champion-Brock Lesnar would in fact be fighting at UFC 200 in July. What’s even more interesting is that he is indeed still under contract with WWE, and doing this with the company’s blessing-as he will be appearing at SummerSlam in August.
So, putting aside the hows and whys of the deal, what might this all mean? Who benefits most? Is this the beginning of more cross-over to help boost each business? Let’s take a stab at each, shall we?
In terms of what it means? On the surface, I would say it’s just business. Brock might have wanted one last UFC match, and while under contract with WWE, and as he’s closing in on 40, sometimes you have to get creative. It’s also possible that, in order to have had Rousey appear at last year’s WrestleMania-or perhaps as a “thank you” for being OK with it-Vince, Hunter et al are allowing Lesnar to return to the Octagon. Or, as Dorathy opined on Sunday, perhaps this is an effort to open the doors for future cross-promotion. We can only speculate for now, though this is one point I fully expect to see more clarity on as things move forward. People talk, after all.
In terms of who benefits most? Or who is risking more? I have to think in the long run, in terms of benefiting, it would be WWE. Short term, probably WWE and possibly Brock, too, though that all depends on who he fights. And this is key, folks. While everyone knows Brock is a beast, and a legit tough SOB, perhaps WWE agreed to this with the idea he gets fed a UFC jobber. That is, what if all involved thought it would be a great way to rebuild Brock’s monster edge by having him step into the cage and destroy someone, just for old time’s sake? Not saying they did that, but if they did, it would be an excellent business decision for WWE. It’s not as though they want to particularly see Lesnar going up against Overeem, a man who has previously beaten Lesnar. Put it another way, WWE especially does not want to see Lesnar lose at the UFC event-to do so might not be devastating, but it would not be helping his brand value at all. It’s this risk that tells me it will be someone who can’t be a threat to Lesnar. However, if that’s the case, I think folks will question either the legitimacy of the bout, or whether the opponent was given a certain set of instructions for the evening. So I think UFC’s credibility is definitely on the line here too.
And of course, everyone wonders if this is a true one off? Or payback for Rousey’s WM appearance? Or is this the start of something new? I think a lot of folks are probably hoping it’s something new, but to what extent no one can be sure of. I think some cross-over could be mutually beneficial, but Dana White will be extremely cautious about just how far that goes, because having UFC fighters work in WWE will be hard to handle. UFC fights are, of course, real, while WWE’s are predetermined. White won’t want the legitimacy of his bouts called into question, and it’s not exactly like many WWE stars are ready, willing and able to step into the Octagon right this minute. That could be an experiment that goes as badly as Mr. Gunn fighting Butterbean.
But, there is also the 800 pound gorilla in the room, isn’t there? That being, there’s a WWE Superstar heading back into the Octagon in July. And there’s a former WWE Superstar now working for UFC, who has yet to make his debut. Now, the biggest snare to this would be the weight class, but I suppose they could allow CM Punk to fight up in order to challenge Lesnar. But would they? It would be…could be….a pretty big fight for all involved. Think about it: if it were Punk/Lesnar, WWE fans would instantly be expected to buy the fight. UFC fans would be intrigued for a number of reasons too. But I think such an attraction bout comes with too many questions-specifically, if you have one current and one former WWE talent, fighting against each other in a UFC match, is this going to be a legitimate fight, or will this have been booked? If it’s a legitimate fight, would that even make sense? If Brooks defeats Lesnar, it’s horrible for Brock. But if the bigger Beast dominates Punk? It practically ends his UFC career before it starts. It wouldn’t make him un-bookable for future UFC engagements, but if your debut was getting destroyed by Lesnar in a special event? It might be hard to recover. Of course, the reward could be huge, if Brooks shocked the world and beat Lesnar. But, from where I sit, the risk outweighs the reward, and I think the likelihood of this happening is slim.
So, what does Brock + UFC equal? Not quite sure what to expect, but I am thinking folks who struck this deal are thinking its going to equate to a very good gate.