Timing is everything.
When a combination of diverticulitis and right hands from other heavyweights led to Brock Lesnar’s retirement from mixed martial arts, WWE brass jumped on the opportunity to bring him back to the sports entertainment world in 2012. The former NCAA national champion was recruited directly from the amateur ranks and given a meteoric push to the top of the card, winning the WWE championship less than six months after his debut on television in 2002. Just two years after he stormed onto the scene on Raw, Brock was tired of the travel involved with the WWE schedule and abruptly quit.
His sports entertainment name value made him an instant commodity for the Ultimate Fighting Championship in 2008, and UFC kingpin, Dana White promoted him as a beast, despite a lack of fundamental striking skills. Eventually, Lesnar’s novice striking and aversion to punches in the face led to his UFC exit, but his time in the octagon gave him a renewed hype for sports entertainment.
Timing is everything.
A former UFC Heavyweight champion when he returned to the squared circle, Brock had much negotiating power, and perhaps Vince McMahon was a little too generous with the offer that made Lesnar among the highest paid performers on the roster with an extremely limited schedule. Plus, Brock was allowed outside sponsorship, something that CM Punk asked for prior to his departure, but was denied.
Since Lesnar’s original return to the WWE, he signed to renew his deal on a few occasions, including his current contract that runs until Wrestlemania of next year. There was a lot of debate as to whether WWE brass relied too often on part-timers to boost its major cards. Along with that, the debate continued as to the “opportunity cost” of a part-time champion. At nearly 40, is Brock really worth the investment of the top spot on the card instead of younger talent to build toward the future?
Just a few weeks ago, troubled UFC light heavyweight, Jon Jones returned to the octagon from his second career suspension, stemming from a positive test prior to UFC 200 in July of last year. Jones, one of the most athletically gifted competitors to fight in the octagon, had a laundry list of legal problems before he reclaimed his 205 LBS title at UFC 214. While “Bones” won via stoppage in the third round, there were varying opinions about if his opponent, Daniel Cormier had won the first two rounds. I’d say it’s too early to proclaim that Jon Jones is back in top form, but he immediately put the spotlight on himself. Post-fight, after he gave credit to his opponent, “Bones” challenged Brock Lesnar to an MMA bout.
Timing is everything.
Lesnar, who returned for a one-off appearance to fight Mark Hunt last year, was suspended for a positive PED test after the contest. Brock, still under a WWE contract, accepted the Nevada State Athletic Commission suspension and didn’t appeal their decision. Instead, he announced his mixed martial arts retirement earlier this year, which froze his suspension and removed his name from the USADA testing pool.
While it’s theoretically possible for the WWE Universal champion to be eligible to compete in mixed martial arts again, the retirement and suspension make the situation a little murky. Before a potential Jones fight would be an option, Lesnar would have to enroll in the USADA testing pool again and sit on the sidelines for the five months that remain on his suspension. During that time, he would be subject to random USADA testing, and a positive out-of-competition test could derail any plans to return to the UFC.
However, this Jon Jones challenge gives Brock leverage when his WWE deal expires. The two promotions worked a deal previously, and more specifically, the entire Lesnar career path was mutually beneficial to both companies. Make no mistake, “Bones” Jones wouldn’t have made the challenge unless Dana White had some indication that Brock wanted to fight again. Plus, this isn’t the first time that Brock used the UFC as a bargaining chip with the WWE, as rumors swirled right before he signed his most recent extension. Conveniently, he appeared on ESPN the week before Wrestlemania 31 to announce his “official” retirement from MMA before he revealed that he signed another WWE deal. Of course, when the money was right, Brock returned to the cage for the previously mentioned one-off to fight Mark Hunt. The point being, there’s a pattern here so these Jon Jones headlines shouldn’t surprise fans.
Right now, there’s probably a 50/50 chance that Brock Lesnar puts on the gloves again, mostly because of all the prior hurdles already mentioned. The weight class won’t be a problem because anything over 205 LBS is considered a heavyweight fight and Jones cuts down to make light heavyweight so it’s not that much of a stretch for him to fight in the heavyweight division. If these two sign to fight in the octagon, “Bones” will probably dominate Brock. Jones has the reach to land punches before Lesnar could attempt a take down, and if the Universal champion gets the chance to go for a take down, Jones has some of the best take down defense in the UFC. Plus, let’s not forget that Lesnar’s success in the UFC was at a time when the heavyweight division was at a relative low point, and when the level of competition improved, he was defeated.
Don’t get me wrong, that’s not an attempt to take anything away from his accomplishments, but the reality is, Lesnar is a mostly one-dimensional fighter, while Jones defeated world-class competition. Regardless of Lesnar’s weight advantage, he has a limited skill set in MMA, but Jon Jones is one of the most well-rounded athletes in the history of the sport, which tells the story of how a potential contest would probably go if a contract is signed.
Let’s be clear, this is a win-win situation for Brock Lesnar. Either he uses the combat sport alternative as a way to get more money from WWE or he returns to the cage for a major money fight before he retires back to his farm. For anyone that disagrees with his negotiating tactics, you can’t really blame Brock for trying to get as much money as possible. Considering the major pay checks that he earned the past decade, there’s no reason to expect him to compete into his mid-40s. That said, if he does plan to compete to that age, WWE would be the realistic option at that point so if he is going to fight again, this would be the last chance for him to do it. There’s easy money on the table for Brock to continue to work for the WWE, but again, money talks and it’s a matter of the amount of money each company offers that will determine his future plans.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.
Until next week
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