Former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar on Monday announced that he will return to the Octagon against Mark Hunt in the co-main event of UFC 200.
In his nearly five years away from MMA, Lesnar has resumed his role as one of the biggest stars in the world of pro-wrestling, taking part in numerous high-profile matches for World Wrestling Entertainment. So, why would WWE agree to Lesnar’s UFC return? If Lesnar is to be believed, WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon didn’t have much of a choice.
Lesnar, 38, described his recent meeting with McMahon during a Monday interview on ESPN’s “SportsCenter.”
“I said, ‘Listen, old man, we can do this the hard way or the easy way,’” Lesnar chuckled. “I said, ‘Do you wanna arm-wrestle for it?’ and he’s like, ‘Yeah, what the hell.’ So, I ended up beating him, and here we are.”
According to Lesnar -- whose WWE ring attire includes MMA-style gloves and board shorts -- recording another bout under the UFC banner will prove beneficial to all parties involved.
“In the WWE brand, I’m a legit athlete in that brand, and I bring lots to the company,” he said. “For me to get back in the Octagon legitimizes why the WWE has me in their company. It’s a win for all of us.”
Lesnar’s retirement from MMA came in 2011, brought on by back-to-back losses against Alistair Overeem and Cain Velasquez, as well as recurring problems with intestinal diverticulitis. Still, Lesnar said that the fact that he was forced to walk away from the sport troubled him over the past few years and ultimately fueled his desire to return.
“[It was] the haunting fact that I didn’t really want it to be over,” said Lesnar. “So, here we are. I’m taking the leap and I’m gonna get back in so that, 20 years from now, I can say, ‘I did it.’”
Lesnar described the feeling was “exhilarating” when the UFC officially announced his return during Saturday night’s UFC 199 pay-per-view.
“I don’t have to sit here and fake to anybody how excited I am. I feel it,” he said. “I’m thankful that the UFC is allowing me back into the Octagon. I’m thankful that WWE is allowing me to do this.”
Of course, the promise of a sizable fight purse certainly couldn’t hurt, either. Lesnar, who currently resides on his grain farm in Regina, Saskatchewan, declined to specify exactly how much he’ll make to face Hunt at UFC 200, but noted that the amount will be substantial.
“It’s just lots of money. I’m a prizefighter -- unlike some other fighters, all they ever want is to be the champion. I’ve been the champion. I’ve climbed that ladder. I’ve got to the top of that mountain. At this stage in my career -- and back then -- you don’t get in the cage for nothing. It’s a lot of money. I’m not gonna relay how much money I’m making on it. I wouldn’t do that to either one of the companies.”
Asked whether he had designs on continuing his MMA career beyond UFC 200, Lesnar was noncommittal.
“I’ve never had a plan, really,” Lesnar said. “Things happen. I really believe that life is about timing. The timing feels right on this. Somehow, I always land on my feet. I’m very blessed. I feel very fortunate.”
Ring rust is always a concern for fighters coming off a long layoff, but Lesnar -- a mountain of an athlete who has also competed in freestyle wrestling and football -- seemed confident in his ability to get back in form.
“I don’t really have any concerns,” Lesnar explained. “Hopefully we get the rust out in training camp, and I think we will. If not, the first punch from Mark will knock the rest of the rust off in the first 10 seconds maybe, and then look out.”