Back in May, one of the biggest (perhaps the only) criticism of the otherwise stacked UFC 200 card was the lack of a “historic” feel to the event. Oh, sure it was a milestone, but there was no solid link to the promotion’s history, at least not on the main card. A couple of undercard fights held names like Diego Sanchez and Takanori Gomi, but there was no blockbuster, surefire superstar among them. No Georges St. Pierre, no B.J. Penn.

Then the UFC announced, during the broadcast of UFC 199 (news that slipped out just a little earlier thanks to Ariel Helwani of MMAFighting, and no, it didn’t ruin the surprise) that Brock Lesnar would be making his return to the octagon, opponent TBD. A couple of days later, that To Be Determined turned out to be Mark Hunt — and if they hadn’t been already, MMA fans everywhere got excited.

Surely, a former UFC champion who hasn’t fought in nearly five years can’t be the reason for fans getting excited on a card with three title fights, right? Only, you can blame those who feel Lesnar is putting this card over the top. Yes, it was already a stacked card, but Miesha Tate vs. Amanda Nunes feels like filler, until we get either Tate vs. Rousey 3 or Tate vs. Holm 2. No one outside her camp seems to be giving Nunes much of a shot in the women’s bantamweight title fight, and for good reason: Tate has proven that she beats nearly anyone in the division, and Nunes has yet to show she’s developed enough as a fighter to be mentioned alongside the likes of Ronda Rousey or Cat Zingano.

Frankie Edgar vs. Jose Aldo 2? That’s a fight that, while it will no doubt be great, doesn’t need to happen. We should be seeing Edgar vs. McGregor. We’re not. And Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier 2? It’s a fight that had to happen, but it’s hard to get excited for it given how Jones looked against Ovince St. Preux in his return fight earlier this year. Not to mention, many have tired of the Cormier-Jones soap opera.

Lesnar, coming out of retirement and taking on one of the biggest dogs in the yard? One of the most divisive yet dominant (he still remains tied for heavyweight title defenses) heavyweight champions in UFC history? That’s worth getting really excited for — even if we all know how it’s likely to end (read: Mark Hunt connecting with a knockout punch).

What does that say about the sport of MMA at this point in its history? Maybe a lot. Maybe nothing. The fact is, personalities have always been as important in combat sports as win/loss records. Ali was larger than life. Tyson was larger than life. Conor McGregor is in that spot was well. Brock Lesnar always has been. So it’s not a knock against the sport that it’s a former fighter returning that drums up the most excitement for the UFC’s (and if we’re being honest, the sport’s) biggest night, historically.

Simply put, Lesnar being on the card was the missing piece of the puzzle, and it makes the wait for Saturday night that much more excruciating. Because love him or hate him, you want to see Lesnar in the cage.

About The Author

Senior Staff Writer

Covering the sport of MMA from Ontario, Canada, Jay Anderson has been writing for various publications covering sports, technology, and pop culture since 2001. Jay holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Guelph, and a Certificate in Leadership Skills from Humber College under the Ontario Management Development Program. When not slaving at the keyboard, he can be found in the company of his dog, a good book, or getting lost in the woods.