Were it not for some last-minute maneuvering, Brock Lesnar’s UFC comeback might not have occurred until late in 2016.
Lesnar was ultimately granted a one-off opportunity by World Wrestling Entertainment to fight at UFC 200, an agreement which also allows the heavyweight to return to the sports entertainment realm to compete at SummerSlam in August. The deal wasn’t announced until UFC 199 on June 4, meaning that Lesnar hasn’t exactly had a full camp to prepare for Mark Hunt, his co-headlining opponent at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on July 9.
“I wasn’t sure if it was even gonna happen. I don’t remember the date, but I’ve been training four or five weeks,” Lesnar said during a recent conference call. “Before my call to [UFC President Dana White], I wasn’t sure this was gonna happen at UFC 200. We thought we could maybe put something together by November for New York.
“I’ll fight wherever the money’s right. We took it to the 11th hour and that’s where we’re at. So it is what it is.”
The Las Vegas-based promotion’s highly-anticipated debut in New York is set for Nov. 12 at Madison Square Garden. No bouts have been announced for the event, but it is expected to be a blockbuster card along the lines of UFC 200. If Lesnar were interested in fighting after next weekend, he would conceivably have plenty of time to prepare for a potential bout at UFC 205. Thus far, the ex-heavyweight king hasn’t offered any insight into his MMA plans past July 9.
While training to be a professional wrestler is far different than training for mixed martial arts, Lesnar revealed that he has continued to hone his skills in recent years when the opportunity arises.
“I really never left training MMA. [I take] any chance I can to grapple or do jiu-jitsu or hit mitts or whatever. I have a true passion for the sport,” he said. “I love the sport. I did it just to pass time and to stay in shape. To compare the two: to be in wrestling shape vs. fighter shape, not even on the same planet.”
Lesnar initially closed the door on a UFC return in 2015, but it was his competitive drive that led him back to the Octagon. The former University of Minnesota wrestling standout still feels like he has unfinished business in the sport after exiting the promotion on the heels of back-to-back losses against Alistair Overeem and Cain Velasquez. Age isn’t really an issue: Lesnar will turn 39 shortly after UFC 200, but he recognizes that heavyweight is one of the sport’s more seasoned divisions.
“I’ve been an athlete since I was 5 years old. I love this sport. I believe I was meant to be a fighter and an entertainer. It’s no mystery that I was forced out of this competition because of an illness that I had,” Lesnar said. “I’m in a whole different spot mentally and physically in my life right now. Before I became a 40-year-old man I want to get back in the cage. I’m fighting a 42-year-old guy. The guys in the heavyweight division, the average age is 35-36 years old. I’m a competitor, and I’ll be a competitor probably in the nursing home racing my wheelchair around probably.”