After multiple changes to the main event for UFC 200, the showing of UFC loyalty by arguably the greatest fighter of all time, and a night full of action packed fights the biggest MMA promotion walked away with a $10.7 million dollar gate.
Like Him or Not, Brock Lesnar is Good for the UFC
While every single fighter on that card contributed to UFC 200’s success, one man helped break that record and proved that even if you love him or you hate him, he brings eyes to the sport of mixed martial arts.
That man is Brock Lesnar.
A Look Back at UFC 100
Let’s rewind to 100 PPV’s to UFC 100. The two biggest draws in the UFC are on the same card. Brock Lesnar and Georges St. Pierre graced the octagon on one of the greatest cards of all time. Both defended their titles and furthered cemented their legacies for the future generations of fight fans.
Soon after, Lesnar began to battle diverticulitis, and after seemingly defeating the disease he defeated Shane Carwin at UFC 116. Lesnar would then suffer back to back losses to Cain Velasquez and Alistair Overeem before taking time off and then finally heading back to the world of professional wrestling.
And just like that, the biggest draw for the UFC was gone.
But the UFC still had Georges St. Pierre who was an easy sell to fans, being undefeated since 2007 and beating every great welterweight in his path.
Then UFC 167 happened, GSP beat Johnny Hendricks in a highly controversial split decision and soon announced he was taking a break from fighting. Hendricks wasn’t the draw GSP was, and soon would lose the belt to Robbie Lawler.
In the heavyweight division, Velasquez was easy to market, but injuries kept pulling him from cards. Overeem looks great now but lost by knockout in both fights after getting rid of Lesnar.
At middleweight, Anderson Silva also lost the UFC title. He had consecutive defeats against Chris Weidman. In the second fight, Silva shattered his leg and would need a long recovery.
The UFC needed stars
Enter Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor. Rousey, the first UFC Women’s Champion, began breaking down walls, doing media appearances on multiple formats of TV shows, radio, and began popping up in movies. Rousey sold tickets and was finishing her opponents in record times and in impressive fashion.
Conor McGregor showed up and took the spotlight in the whole featherweight division. Brash, foul-mouthed, and cocky, McGregor talked trash about every single opponent. Nothing was off guard. He called his shots, in and out of the ring, and finally grabbed the ultimate spot in the division in 13 seconds, when he knocked out the king of the featherweights, Jose Aldo.
The UFC had found their answers to the box office woes. Or so they thought.
The New Stars Fall
As Ronda took on more and more media appearances, she seemed to care less about fighting and more on the A-List Hollywood stardom that awaited her. That all came crashing down at UFC 193 when she was defeated by Holly Holm.
Ronda looked outclassed. Her return keeps getting pushed back, and no one knows if or when we will see her return to the Octagon.
Three pay-per-views later, McGregor, moving up in weight, was submitted by Nate Diaz. McGregor is still a draw and is the king of the trash talk, but that all can come crashing down after his next fight if he falls to Diaz in their rematch at UFC 202.
Brock Lesnar Returns
The UFC saw the writing on the wall, and at UFC 199, we saw the answer to their “What if’s” about the future drawing power of their newly made stars.
With one commercial, hardcore fans and casual fans alike began speculating, “Is Brock Lesnar returning?!”
Of course, the fan base was divided. To some, Lesnar was a “pro wrestler” who didn’t belong on the UFC card. Others thought he was the perfect puzzle piece to fix the slot left on UFC 200 after the McGregor/Diaz 2 debacle.
And when his opponent was announced, the angry fans rejoiced. They had their guy.
Mark Hunt was the perfect folly for Lesnar. One of the greatest strikers in MMA history, and someone with an average takedown defense. He would “Send Lesnar back to the WWE.”
Biggest Card Ever
Fans tuned into UFC 200 because of one of the most stacked UFC cards of all time, but your average joe tuned in for the return of the most marketable guy in UFC history.
How many MMA fighters do you see on the major sports channels like ESPN? How many of them get breaking news when it comes to their sport, let alone in the fictional world of the WWE?
The answer is one.
While we’ve seen the negative reports on fighters, or quick glances on Sports Center for the UFC results, Lesnar seems to go on press tours for WWE and UFC before every one of his big pay days.
UFC 200 proved his worth. Not only did he win his fight, but he would plant seeds for a potential rematch with Velasquez. Junior Dos Santos took to Twitter and called out Brock after his performance as well. It looks like he has a few options.
The UFC being sold to WME-IMG may put some kinks into the way the UFC and WWE are splitting Lesnar, but as Lesnar put it last Saturday “Brock Lesnar does what Brock Lesnar wants”, and for an MMA fan that means good business for the number one fight company in the world.
Main Photo: LAS VEGAS, NV – JULY 09: Brock Lesnar reacts to his victory over Mark Hunt of New Zealand in their heavyweight bout during the UFC 200 event on July 9, 2016 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)