Brock Lesnar (Rob Tatum/The MMA Corner)Brock Lesnar: Still ‘The Next Big Thing’ in Pro Wrestling… and MMA Trey Downey January 17, 2014 Spotlight Brock Lesnar was once affectionately called “The Next Big Thing.” Even though he is technically “retired” from mixed martial arts competition, that moniker still holds a lot of truth—Lesnar is still the next big thing that could happen for the UFC. The former UFC heavyweight champion called it quits on his fighting career after a first-round TKO loss to Alistair Overeem in December of 2011 and ongoing struggles with diverticulitis, an intestinal disorder that required Lesnar to undergo surgery on two occasions in the two years prior to his fight with Overeem. But rumors of a return to the Octagon have been running rampant as of late. At first glance, all of this talk appears to be just that, crazy rumors. But looking deeper at the situation and hearing comments from the parties involved, it might not be as farfetched as it seems. The rumors really took off during fight week for UFC 168 last month. Word went around that Lesnar would be cageside for the event and would be meeting with UFC President Dana White about a possible return. The event came and went, and there was no sign of Lesnar whatsoever. The rumors just wouldn’t die though. White was very coy to reporters’ questions about the pro-wrestling star that weekend and even admitted that he would directly lie to reporters when it came to the subject of Lesnar. Later in the week, White told the L.A. Times that he had been in contact with Lesnar about a possible return. You could take that with a grain of salt considering White’s previous admission, but would he go as far as to lie in an interview with a major media outlet? Maybe not. In the opinion of most people, the biggest obstacle in the way of a Lesnar return is the fact that he is still under contract with the WWE. All of these rumors started the week before Lesnar made his return to the pro-wrestling promotion after being off television since August. People pointed out that it could possibly all be a publicity stunt by the WWE and Lesnar to get his name in the media when he was returning soon. However, what would the UFC have to gain if it was all just a publicity stunt for the WWE? The answer is that it isn’t all just a stunt. Lesnar is arguably the biggest pay-per-view draw that either company could put out there right now, and both companies are in major need of stars, the UFC in particular. Zuffa underwent a changing of the guard in 2013. The year ended with the revelation that Anderson Silva and Georges St. Pierre, the two biggest draws in the company and arguably the two biggest stars in the history of the sport, likely would not fight in 2014. Johnny Hendricks and Chris Weidman were big factors in the fall of those two superstars, but neither is at the level of their predecessors when it comes to drawing power and money. If you combine that with the fact that Anthony Pettis and Cain Velasquez are both out of action for the majority of the year, Zuffa needs stars that are going to make fans want to fork over that $55 to purchase the big events. Lesnar would certainly fit that bill. The UFC and the WWE would be willing to share Lesnar. Regardless of what White has said in the past about not wanting to mold those two worlds, Lesnar is a different animal. Even though there is the MMA hipster crowd out there that never wants the WWE and UFC mentioned in the same sentence, there are far more crossover fans that would love the idea. Casual fans are the ones that make the difference in big pay-per-view buy rates. The diehards are going to purchase every event, but you need the guys who just want to see Lesnar in order to pull the big numbers. White has always been complimentary of Vince McMahon and the WWE, and lately the pleasantries have been even more evident. The WWE is blatantly referring to Lesnar as an “Ultimate Fighter” and former UFC champion on its broadcasts, whereas in the past he was just referred to as a former MMA heavyweight champion. Then, Wednesday night, pro-wrestling legend Ric Flair was present at the UFC Fight Night event in Georgia. Pro-wrestling stars at fights are nothing new, but White tweeted a picture with Flair and tagged the WWE. Some might view these as simple coincidences, but things like this would not have happened a few years ago. Both companies might be pulling the wool over our eyes. Lesnar has a great contract with the WWE, he has had health issues, and his fight team does not even exist anymore. All of those things are obstacles, but all are easily overcome. Going out on two losses left a bad taste in Lesnar’s mouth, and he wants to come back. The timing for this is no coincidence either. Lesnar will be prominently featured on WWE television until Wrestlemania on the first weekend in April. After that, Lesnar will likely be off television and have plenty of time to train for a fight. Chris Weidman wants to fight Vitor Belfort in May. That means the UFC needs a headliner for its huge Fourth of July Weekend show in Las Vegas. Don’t be shocked if Brock Lesnar vs. Frank Mir III is on the marquee for International Fight Week.