By Raphael Garcia
In less than three seconds of screen time, Brock Lesnar showed that he’s still one of the most compelling topics in mixed martial arts. Not only did the announcement of his MMA return become one of the biggest sports stories of the weekend; the fallout also affected the professional careers of Ariel Helwani and other sports journalists. In just a few moments it became very clear that Lesnar will have a massive impact on UFC 200.
Lesnar’s catchphrase of “Can you see me now?” was first uttered at UFC 87 in 2008 after he defeated Heath Herring. That very sound bite was replayed during a UFC 200 promotional spot on the UFC 199 pay-per-view card, followed by Lesnar’s smiling face. Earlier in the evening, Helwani broke the news that Lesnar was in talks with the UFC to return for UFC 200, which this video confirmed. The consequences of that report deserve a piece by itself, but Lesnar’s return became a major moment for this event and for 2016 as a whole.
On Monday morning Lesnar took to SportsCenter to talk with Hannah Storm about his return, announcing that Mark Hunt is the man he will face in July. Hunt is a very dangerous opponent for the former champion. Six of his last seven wins were earned via knockout, and MMA fans remember the images of Lesnar stumbling around after taking damage from other well-versed strikers. Hunt is a fan favorite who’s earned cult status as of late, making him the perfect candidate to face Lesnar from a promotional point of view.
This announcement comes at a vital moment for the company. Rumors circulated last month that Zuffa is looking to sell either a portion or the UFC as a whole. Smashing the record that UFC 100 set puts the promotion in an attractive position for potential buyers. It doesn’t matter that Lesnar is returning for a one-off battle, as confirmed by the WWE, where he’s still contracted after re-signing in 2015. Fans and multiple media outlets jumped all over the story and hours later were still extrapolating upon the idea of Lesnar walking back into the Octagon.
Brock Lesnar is an attraction. Simply mentioning his name creates a firestorm of opinions from both hardcore and mainstream mixed martial arts fans. But that’s the whole point; that’s exactly why the UFC brought him back for one more event. UFC 200 is going to break records, and when it’s all said and done, Lesnar will be one of the factors that pushed this event over the edge.
UFC 200: Tate vs. Nunes (formerly UFC 200: Cormier vs. Jones 2, UFC 200: Lesnar vs. Hunt) takes place on July 9, 2016 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.