OK, so it’s not likely to be anything close to the ECW invasion angle the WWE trotted out back in the day, but think about it folks. 2 fights scheduled for the Summer of 2016 will be heavily promoted around former WWE World Heavyweight Champions. Brock Lesnar does battle in July, and CM Punk is making his Octagon debut in early September. If I am in charge of UFC, I am thrilled because of the cross-promotional opportunities that Lesnar brings with him, and the cross-over appeal that Punk might. Pretty sure they won’t be banking on WWE promoting Punk’s appearance, but 1 out of 2 isn’t bad.
But if I am a hardcore fan of MMA, or an actual MMA fighter, how would I feel? I presume the feelings will be mixed.
Here’s the good. For one, each man is a bonafide name outside of UFC, and in Lesnar’s case, in it too. Star power usually means more butts in seats and more PPV buys. And more tickets sold and PPVs bought? That’s good for business. And generally, that has a trickle down effect. More shows, more cards, bigger paychecks. Even for the little guys, their per fight checks could go up. Maybe.But even if the checks stay the same, the media attention is a good thing.
But here’s the bad. For one, it’s a bout on two cards where someone else, someone who has been dedicated to MMA for years, won’t get a chance. Not necessarily saying they would have if Brock or Punk wasn’t fighting, either, but with these guys going, it’s a spot someone else doesn’t get.
There also may be the jealousy factor. Some guys are busting their butts, long hours in the gym, waiting for their chance. And these guys come in, or come back, and get right onto cards. So I am sure some guys are probably bitter-logically, more so with Punk, since Lesnar has long since proven himself, and his status as a former UFC Heavyweight Champion allows him the chance to come back and perform on a special occasion.
So, what does it all mean? For Dana White, or whomever might end up buying UFC, it’s a financial move. The shot-callers all think that a one-time only match for Lesnar will do great at the box office, and with the issues with other high profile fighters, it’s pretty much a safe play. There’s no title involved, it’s basically an exhibition. Two large men pummeling each other for the sheer fun of it. Adding Lesnar to the July card was a no-brainer. But Punk? That’s a bit different. It’s hard to believe that Punk has been under contract with UFC since late 2014 already, and it will be nearly 2 years before he’s made his debut. He was a big name signing, to be sure, but it’s hard to know what will happen when he enters the cage. If he struggles against a more seasoned opponent, how long does the experiment go on? But, by the same token, he’s stuck with it this long, and he’s dedicated, so it’s a worthwhile gamble.
But, whether you like it or not, this Summer, UFC is going to be, at least in some respect, influenced by some WWE flavor. Time will tell if it was worth it.