Sorry Curtis Blaydes. Step aside, Alexander Volkov. No immediate rematch for you, Stipe Miocic. That’s because new UFC heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier, who brutally knocked out Miocic in the main event of Saturday’s UFC 226 megacard, is going to fight Brock Lesnar in his first heavyweight title defense. After weeks of rumors speculating that Lesnar would show up at T-Mobile Arena, the former heavyweight champ and WWE superstar indeed showed up, entering the Octagon after Cormier’s victory speech where he called the ex-champ out. Lesnar made his way into the Octagon and then shoved the new champ in the chest when the two stood next to each other in the cage, nearly starting a fight. UFC president Dana White has already confirmed that Lesnar will get the next title shot when he’s eligible to fight again following his return to the USADA testing pool.
On the basis of merit, there’s no way Lesnar deserves a title shot against Cormier. If we’re going by merit, then really Miocic should get an immediate title shot considering he defended his title three times against Junior dos Santos, Francis Ngannou and Alistair Overeem, which was the most title defenses by a heavyweight ever. So the argument for Miocic to get another chance to beat Cormier is there. The same can be said for Blaydes, who just knocked out Overeem in his last fight to announce his presence as a top contender, and similarly for Volkov, who finished Fabricio Werdum in his last fight. Those two guys have both looked amazing in the UFC and deserve a title shot. But they won’t get it, because Lesnar is going to get it, even though he hasn’t fought since a No Contest against Mark Hunt in July 2016 and even though he hasn’t won a fight since submitting Shane Carwin at UFC 116 in June 2010.
The reason Lesnar is getting the title shot is simple: money. The UFC doesn’t have many stars these days, so it needs Lesnar because he’s a massive draw who sells out arenas and sells pay-per-views. The UFC is pretty much guaranteed to have a seven-figure PPV night with the Cormier vs. Lesnar fight, a number which rarely happens these days. So from the UFC’s point-of-view, it’s a no-brainer to give Lesnar the title shot. It’s a guaranteed money maker for the promotion after a down year for the company, and the possible January date for the fight coincides nicely with the UFC’s new deal with ESPN, which kicks in at the beginning of 2019. The UFC will be able to promote this heavyweight fight between Cormier and Lesnar like no other, and it’s the perfect fight for the company to start its next phase with. And that’s why the UFC can’t afford to pass on this bout, even though from a merit point-of-view it doesn’t make sense to give a guy who hasn’t won a fight in nearly a decade a title shot in a division where numerous fighters are waiting for one.
MMA is a sport but it’s also a business spectacle, and the spectacle of a Cormier vs. Lesnar fight is just too big for the UFC to pass up on. It’s just too big of a fight money wise that even if it doesn’t make sense from a rankings point of view, it has to happen. There will no doubt be critics of the UFC’s decision to not award Miocic, Blaydes or Volkov the next heavyweight title shot against the new champion Cormier, but you have to understand it from the UFC’s point-of-view, even if you don’t agree with it. On paper, Lesnar doesn’t deserve a title shot. Not even close. But we know the UFC is business first and sport second and it has been this way for a while. That’s why Brock Lesnar is getting his crack at the belt. Even if you don’t agree with it, you know you’re going to watch it, and that’s why the UFC had to book this fight. It makes too much sense, and it’s the perfect way for the UFC to kick off its new era as an ESPN property. Now let’s just hope that Brock Lesnar can pass his USADA tests, because we all know what happened last time.
Do you think Daniel Cormier vs. Brock Lesnar is the biggest fight the UFC can make?