By Zach Arnold | January 7, 2014
Week 2 of Lesnar reboot again on WWE TV draws scarily quiet audience. These are not the same WWE fans from 3 years ago that dug Heyman's act
— FightOpinion (@FightOpinion) January 7, 2014
Watching the WWE’s latest reboot of Brock Lesnar is painful. And Paul Heyman isn’t connecting with the live crowds. It was certainly a different landscape many years ago when Lesnar & Heyman had the fans eating out of their hands.
The WWE audience that bought into Brock Lesnar has disappeared or moved onto something else. The same could very well happen if Lesnar attempts a return to the UFC.
The business environments for both companies is very different today than it was in 2009. WWE is really at a garbage-level low point for matchmaking and not understanding what the fans want. Brock Lesnar is not a guy to jump start a cold product but he is the kind of guy who can blow the roof off the ceiling for a hot product. The UFC is running so many shows now that the novelty has worn off and what you have is an audience that will pop for the big stars but that’s about it. It’s still a hardcore floor of support but the ceiling is limited to pop a number outside of a Ronda Rousey fight.
Which is why I have my doubts that Brock Lesnar could draw close to GSP-level numbers if he returned to the UFC. We know the current Heavyweight division environment. It sucks. Daniel Cormier moving to Light Heavyweight prevents a fight with Cain Velasquez, which serves American Kickboxing Academy just fine but hurts the UFC. Josh Barnett isn’t a player any longer, which is unfortunate. Bigfoot Silva is tarnished by the magic T and had trouble putting away Mark Hunt. Mark Hunt is a tough bastard but he’s not title material. Travis Browne is the guy everyone has their hopes pinned on but Alistair Overeem was clobbering him until Overeem melted down. Junior Dos Santos is still trying to find his marbles after the beatdown from Cain Velasquez in Houston. Velasquez just had surgery and will out for an extended period of time. Fabricio Werdum is out there needing a warm-up fight before facing Travis Browne, but who’s interested in Werdum vs. Lesnar?
So, you can see why the UFC wants Brock Lesnar back in action. Even if he can’t pop a million buys, they’ll settle for 500,000 PPV buys for one of his fights. And I think that’s a 50/50 proposition at best. The one fight that could do it would be a rematch against Cain Velasquez and the odds of Lesnar winning that fight are stacked against him. There’s always the fantasy talk of a Fedor/Lesnar fight but it’s not something that I think would gain a whole lot of traction in the States.
Which brings us to Lesnar’s current status with WWE. Would WWE allow him to fight in the UFC? Perhaps they would in exchange for doing a joint PPV venture with Zuffa or if they got a cut of Lesnar’s PPV buys for whatever future shows he fights on for UFC. The problem is that Lesnar’s rub just isn’t there now for WWE and trying to use momentum from a UFC fight is the kind of logic that Antonio Inoki got blasted for last decade when he’d send Yuji Nagata or Kazuyuki Fujita into MMA fights and then translate what they did in MMA to deem them as pro-wrestling champions or chumps.
I fully understand why Brock Lesnar would be fascinated to return to UFC. I get his motives. I get UFC’s motives. I’m not sure I could see what WWE’s motives would be in approving such a business arrangement. Perhaps they could arrange a deal for Lesnar’s fight to air on the new WWE online network. Vince might go for that.
The fact that UFC isn’t flat out denying the Brock Lesnar rumors is a grave indication of how concerned they are about the lack of depth in their heavyweight division. Given the bankroll from Fox Sports & other television deals the UFC has at their disposal, where are the signings of top prospects who could be major players in the heavyweight division? Having to rely on old PRIDE veterans or pro-wrestlers can only buy UFC so much time.