Which was good news and bad news for WWE: the good news being that the win by Lesnar, who will next headline the promotion’s SummerSlam event next month, can boast some claim to legitimacy for its sports entertainment product with the win by one of its main-eventers.
The bad news: in the process WWE may have lost one of its main-eventers.
“One day at a time,” Lesnar replied to UFC commentator Joe Rogan in a post-fight interview, when Rogan asked Lesnar (6-3) if he thought the win over Hunt (12-11-1), the ninth-rated heavyweight in UFC coming in, would make him a contender in the heavyweight title picture.
A two-time former UFC heavyweight champion, Lesnar had not fought in the octagon since a Dec. 30, 2011 loss to Alistair Overeem.
He retired from UFC after that fight, citing health issues after a long bout with diverticulitis that had him lose 40 pounds from his fighting weight at one point.
Then Lesnar returned to WWE and quickly re-established himself as a top-of-the-card draw, holding the WWE heavyweight title for a long run in 2014 and into WrestleMania 31 in 2015. In the days leading up to WM 31, Lesnar announced live on ESPN SportsCenter that he was re-signing with WWE, and ruled out a return to UFC after having publicly toyed with a comeback attempt.
And then came the stunning announcement from UFC a month ago that it had signed Lesnar for its mammoth UFC 200 show. According to published reports, Lesnar is to make an estimated $2.5 million for the one-night return, but after the co-main event between Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones fell apart when Jones was suspended this week for a doping violation, the name drawing the money was Lesnar, who didn’t fail to disappoint with his effort in the octagon.
And after Cormier looked lackluster and was thoroughly booed throughout his win over replacement Anderson Silva Saturday night, Lesnar’s dominating effort makes him the big news of the night.
It’s hard to imagine at this point that Lesnar, who in the walkup to the fight said he had nothing to prove, and nothing to lose, and just wanted to see if he still had it in him to compete in UFC, will want to ride off into the MMA sunset satisfied.
He’s always maintained that he felt the diverticulitis had cut short what he felt was going to be a long run of dominance in UFC.
Beating up a guy like Hunt, a top-10 contender, is only going to stoke the competitive fires within Lesnar, who turns 39 on July 12, and ostensibly has a year, maybe two, at the most, to make one last run for the heavyweight title.
The money here is that he will want to go down that path, at the expense of WWE.
Column by Chris Graham