We’re just a few weeks away from the biggest MMA card of the summer. UFC 226 takes place Saturday, July 7 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, and the card is headlined by a superfight pitting UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic putting his belt on the line against UFC light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier. On paper this has the potential to be one of the greatest fights in UFC history, and on paper the card is ridiculously stacked.
While it’s not fair to look past this fight just yet, the fun thing about MMA is trying to guess what happens next. Even before the Miocic vs. Cormier fight has taken place, fans and media are already speculating what happens next. It’s only natural to speculate in MMA. Based on the rankings, it makes sense for the winner of Miocic vs. Cormier to fight either Curtis Blaydes or Alexander Volkov next. Blaydes is coming off of a destructive TKO win over Alistair Overeem, while Volkov knocked out Fabricio Werdum in his last fight. Both men are very deserving of getting the next heavyweight title shot.
But there is a wild card title contender being thrown into the mix, and that’s Brock Lesnar. According to a report from respected MMA and wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer, Lesnar will be in attendance for UFC 226, and the plan is for him to challenge the winner of Miocic vs. Cormier. Considering Lesnar hasn’t fought since a 2016 No Contest against Mark Hunt, and still hasn’t even been cleared by USADA since he failed his drug test for that fight, the fact he could jump ahead of guys like Blaydes and Volkov who have been winning fights in the UFC doesn’t make a whole lot of sense from a merit standpoint. Also keep in mind that Lesnar hasn’t actually won a fight since a 2010 submission victory over Shane Carwin, and that should automatically remove him from heavyweight title talks. But when you consider how badly the UFC needs to prop up its pay-per-view numbers and how Lesnar is one of the few true PPV draws in the sport, you can see why the UFC is entertaining this option.
Every fight that Lesnar has had in the UFC has done huge numbers, and there’s no doubt that UFC president Dana White and the rest of the Zuffa brass desire to have Lesnar come back and compete in the UFC. With Lesnar’s deal with the WWE coming to an end soon, it makes sense right now to bring him back to the Octagon. But the UFC needs to offer Lesnar more than just money to get him to come back, and that extra incentive would be the chance to fight for the heavyweight title. As long as Lesnar gets put in the USADA testing pool by the end of June, he will be good to fight by the end of 2018, and his comeback would fit in nicely with the timeline for the winner of Miocic vs. Cormier’s next fight. And in the meantime, the UFC can go ahead and book Blaydes vs. Volkov, with the winner of that bout getting a title shot against the winner of Lesnar vs. Miocic/Cormier.
Obviously, there’s a lot that can change between now and the end of the year, but from a financial point of view, the rumors of Brock Lesnar’s return and a possible title shot make a lot of sense. It’s too bad Jon Jones is out of the picture, because a fight between Jones and Lesnar would be the biggest fight the UFC could do. But with Jones still suspended by USADA, the next biggest fight the UFC can do is Lesnar against the winner of Miocic vs. Cormier. Even though I don’t think Lesnar deserves a title shot, I admit that from a business perspective this plan makes a lot of sense for the UFC. We’ll have to wait and see what happens now, but it looks like the pieces are in place for the return of Lesnar, and the whole could use the volt of energy that he will bring as we’re currently in a down period in MMA. But with Brock Lesnar’s return imminent, that down period won’t be for much longer.
How would you react if Brock Lesnar receives a UFC heavyweight title shot?