The latest rumor and scuttlebutt on Brock Lesnar is that he may not be returning to MMA after all.  Let’s just get that out of the way right now. Concerned about the possibility of further concussions should he return to the Octagon, Lesnar, according to any number of “inside sources” in addition to former WWE commentator Jim Ross, appears to be leaning towards re-signing with the WWE, where he has a part-time, sweet heart deal and reigns as their world champion. Fair enough — Lesnar has had his share of health issues over the years, and is entitled to protect his quality of living later in life. Though it is sad news for fight fans.

Sad news for those hoping to see a second run for the former UFC heavyweight champion. Sad news for those who wanted to see him in a rubber match with Frank Mir, or up against an Alistair Overeem no longer chemically enhanced (we hope). Sad news even for those who despise the man and only wanted to see him fail.

Most of all, however, it’s disappointing news, if true, for the UFC’s pocketbook. In the wake of the Anderson Silva drug test, and a horrible 2014 in terms of PPV viewership, a return to the fold by Lesnar would have made huge money. Garnered a massive amount of attention. After all, several of his UFC fights were in the million buy range on PPV. Who other than the now-departed Georges St. Pierre has been that sort of consistent draw in the promotion?

Yet even if Lesnar’s return doesn’t happen, and even years after he first transitioned to the MMA world and became one of the most dominant heavyweight champions in UFC history (he remains tied for most title defences, after all), Brock Lesnar, and the Lesnar effect, remain a huge deal in MMA. Consider, just as partial evidence, the number of articles dedicated to the man’s possible return, with nothing but the wispy smoke of rumour behind them. Consider the up-tick in traffic every article covering Lesnar’s will-he, won’t-he flirtation with a return to the octagon gets. Consider the reaction by fans on message boards across the MMA and pro wrestling communities.

And consider the number of fighters who have now called him out for a return bout. Frank Mir. Alistair Overeem. Brendan Schaub. Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira. Even Bobby Lashley. Some of these call-outs have been respectful, some, not so much. All understand what the Lesnar Effect ultimately means: big money. At the end of the day, a fight against Brock Lesnar represents big business for all those involved. Huge business really.

Josh Barnett knows that well — but he, for one, feels that it isn’t just about the money. Speaking to Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour this week, Barnett, who has not appeared in the octagon in slightly over a year, confirmed he was ready to make a return to action. He also brought up the idea of a fight with Lesnar, a man who he no doubt understands better than most: Barnett has also worked as a pro wrestler, under the NJPW and IGF banners in Japan, among others, and has respect for the product that is pro wrestling. About a fight with Lesnar, Barnett stated that

That would be huge business. It would be a great match to make happen. I always put my voice out there in terms of wanting that fight. But then again, at this point, I think it just sounds like I’m joining the chorus of all these MMA heavyweights that have all, it’s kind of same thing as CM Punk, these guys are all out there running their mouths saying they want to beat Punk or beat Lesnar, because they think it’s an easy payday, because they think they see some lack of ability in their MMA game because of their not being fighters for their whole life. If they’re going to get out there and get that glory, and get the notoriety and get this guy, they see it as an easy shot.

For me I think of it as the business side of things. Not the business side of ‘oh, I’m going to make so much money,’ but the business side of two pro wrestlers, the styles, seeing the two of us go at it is because people will find interest in it and the fight will be interesting itself. Not just in ‘Hey, I’m some guy who’s going to bully some other guy who’s got less experience, and then I act like I’m king s*** of turd mountain.’

It’s an interesting take from a fighter who has been on both sides of the equation. And a reminder that, despite not having competed in the UFC since December 30th, 2011, Lesnar remains both big business and an intriguing, sought after opponent. Even as a ripple effect, the Lesnar Effect carries on. You see it in the call-outs, you see it in the attention other pro wrestlers who have moved, or are considering a move, to the world of MMA are getting. You see it in the passion of the fans, regardless of what side they take when it comes to the polarizing former champion.

Soon enough, we’ll have final word on the matter. Lesnar will return, or he won’t, and the MMA chapter of his career will eventually close either way. There’s no questioning, however, the mark the Lesnar Effect, and the man himself, has made on the sport.

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.