From being crowned heavyweight champion after five bouts to failed drugs tests and villainous antics: Brock Lesnar is the UFC’s original pay-per-view king who could be set for a sensational return to face Jon Jones
- Brock Lesnar has been challenged to a heavyweight clash with Jon Jones
- The WWE icon switched over to UFC a decade ago and had great success
- He is the original PPV king and utilised his villainous wrestling persona
- Sportsmail charts the UFC career of former heavyweight champion Lesnar
Just when you thought Jon Jones’ move up to heavyweight couldn’t get any bigger, ‘Bones’ throws the name Brock Lesnar into the mix.
The long-reigning light heavyweight champion has been left with very little real competition at 205 lbs, having won his last 15-consecutive title fights in the division.
A move up to the heavyweight ranks has been long desired by the majority of the UFC’s fanbase, and a match-up between Jones and current champion Stipe Miocic is a tantalising prospect in itself.
Brock Lesnar could make a sensational return to the UFC after being called out by Jon Jones
But adding Lesnar, a fan-favourite and pay-per-view king, to the mix, you’re looking at one of the biggest UFC fights of all time.
For a man with a 5-3 record, Lesnar shouldn’t command the sort of bedlam that he generates when he competes in the UFC.
Lesnar turned his attention to mixed martial arts in 2007, and competed in one professional bout outside the UFC before he was snapped up by Dana White and the Fertitta brothers.
For White and the Fertittas, Lesnar’s addition to the UFC roster was equal to receiving the golden ticket. The WWE star’s larger-than-life persona, in which he is more than happy to play the villain, coupled with his tremendous size and stature, would surely make for compulsive viewing.
The 43-year-old is a fan-favourite and was the UFC’s original pay-per-view king
Lesnar paved the way for the likes of Conor McGregor to become pay-per-view stars
The South Dakota native was thrown straight into the deep end for his UFC debut in 2008, taking on former heavyweight champion Frank Mir at UFC 81. Lesnar, at 6ft 3ins and 265 lbs, had to wear 4XL gloves for the bout, given the size of his hands. Only one man before him had to wear gloves that size in Nevada.
However, the former champion’s class came to the fore. After riding out a couple of tricky moments, Mir got a hold of Lesnar and secured a knee bar on the wrestling star, handing him his first career defeat.
Yet despite the disappointing opening bout for Lesnar, there was no doubt that the man could pull in a crowd. UFC 81 notched 650,000 pay-per-view buys for Lesnar’s debut with the company, making the event the third-highest grossing PPV in the UFC’s history at the time.
It came as no surprise, then, to see UFC’s top brass book Lesnar for another mixed martial arts outing. Lesnar blitzed Heath Herring at UFC 87 and the UFC wasted no time in getting their newest PPV star a shot at the title against one of the sport’s most popular figures.
The WWE icon crossed over from wrestling to the UFC and was an instant hit with MMA fans
Randy Couture was the man to get past at UFC 91 for Lesnar to clinch UFC gold, and Lesnar’s power proved too much for the champion, with the challenger raining down hammerfists on his sorry rival as the bout was brought to an end.
The WWE star, in only his fourth professional MMA fight, was now heavyweight champion. In doing so, he also became the first UFC fighter to break the one million PPV ceiling in the sport’s history. Lesnar raked in $450,000 for his night’s work at the MGM Grand in Sin City.
Lesnar was providing the blueprint for the perfect crossover fighter. The 43-year-old managed to combine his villainous, intimidating persona crafted in WWE with his ferocious physical attributes to become the No 1 star in combat sport.
So it came as no surprise, then, when Lesnar was announced as the headline act for the UFC’s mammoth UFC 100 card, in which he would look to avenge his sole career defeat against rival Frank Mir. The likes of Georges St-Pierre and Michael Bisping had to settle as the supporting act for the Lesnar show in Vegas.
The 43-year-old clinched the heavyweight title after just five professional fights
And Lesnar dominated once again. The champion survived a brief scare in the early stages when Mir attempted another knee bar, but Lesnar saw off the danger and smothered his American rival for the majority of the first round, before earning the TKO victory in the second.
But it was Lesnar’s behaviour in the immediate aftermath of his win that drew the attention, and disapproval, of UFC chief White.
The 43-year-old, so used to playing the heel, got in Mir’s face and told Joe Rogan in his post-fight interview: ‘Frank Mir had a horseshoe up his a**, I told him that a year ago. I pulled that son of a b**** out and I hit him over the head with it’.
The former champion’s antics were condemned by UFC president Dana White at the time
‘I was blown away,’ White said post-fight. ‘I don’t think in the history of the UFC we’ve ever had someone do something like that. It’s not who we are and it’s not who he is.
‘I’ve spent time with the guy. He gets in there and the adrenaline starts kicking and the mouth starts moving, but the brain isn’t sending anything to his mouth.’
Lesnar told the media after the explosive interview: ‘I was in the entertainment business for a while and I guess there’s still a little bit of that in me.
‘I get asked if there’s anything I could drag over from the WWE and I guess you saw a little bit tonight. I’m used to selling pay-per-views and tickets.’
Lesnar’s reign as heavyweight champion came to an end after his defeat to Cain Velasquez
He was back in action a year later but was comfortably defeated by Alistair Overeem
And he sure did sell a lot of PPVs. Just seven months after breaking the PPV-buy record at UFC 91, Lesnar shattered that total at UFC 100, with the event garnering 1.3m buys and setting a new record that would not be beaten until Conor McGregor fought Nate Diaz at UFC 196, five years later.
Every champion’s reign must come to an end at some point, and it was Cain Velasquez who dislodged Lesnar from the heavyweight throne in October 2010. Despite being visibly smaller in size and stature, the Mexican was unfazed by the champion and blasted Lesnar out in the first round, sending shockwaves through the UFC ranks.
‘We’ll see what happens,’ White said. ‘Brock and I have been fighting a lot over the last month and a half. We’ll see how it goes after this.’
But whatever differences of opinion the pair had could not hide the fact that Lesnar’s drawing power was superior to any UFC athlete at the time. In May 2011, ESPN named the WWE icon as the highest-paid MMA star, earning $5.3m over the previous year.
Lesnar made a sensational return to the UFC in 2016 when he faced Mark Hunt at UFC 200
And so Lesnar would face Alistair Overeem 14 months after his defeat by Velasquez at UFC 121. Overeem, a champion with Strikeforce and K-1 Kickboxing, more than matched Lesnar in terms of size and stature, being two inches taller than the former champion.
The Dutchman swept Lesnar aside with ease, showing no respect for his striking, landing numerous leg kicks to Lesnar’s midriff that ultimately proved too much for the fan-favourite. That defeat led to Lesnar calling time on his UFC career, ‘tonight was the last time you’ll see me in the octagon,’ he said.
Lesnar returned to the WWE but come June 2016, the organisation granted their star a ‘one-off opportunity’ to return to the UFC, and White wasted no time in booking Lesnar to feature at UFC 200, against Mark Hunt.
Lesnar dominated over the three rounds but was found to have failed a drugs test
The returning former champion was paid a record UFC purse of $2.5m, which was subsequently broken by McGregor at UFC 202, and made light work of the Super Samoan, earning a unanimous decision victory to cap a very happy comeback.
However, one month after his UFC 200 win, Lesnar and the promotion were notified by USADA of a potential anti-doping violation relating to an out-of-competition sample taken. It was later revealed that Lesnar had tested positive again, this time in-competition, for the same substance found in the first test – the estrogen blocker clomiphene.
Lesnar was thus suspended and handed a $250,000 fine for the failed drugs test, with the win turned into a no-contest and the returning star made his second retirement from the sport.
In 2018, he set up a title bout with Daniel Cormier but the fight never materialised
And now Jon Jones has called out the fan-favourite for a tantalising showdown at heavyweight
For a star of Lesnar’s size, talk of a third comeback is hardly surprising. The WWE legend came closest to a return in 2018 when he entered the octagon after Daniel Cormier’s win over Stipe Miocic at UFC 226, seemingly teeing up a mammoth contest between the two stars.
But the UFC and WWE were unable to strike an agreement that would see Lesnar move over again, and that fight never materialised.
Yet now Lesnar’s WWE contract has expired, talk of a return have resurfaced, with Jones eager to take on the original PPV king at heavyweight. White, for his part, is open to the idea if both parties are keen.
‘If [Jones and Lesnar] both want to fight each other, I’m sure it’s a fight the fans want to see and it would be a good introduction for Jones into the heavyweight division,’ he said. ‘So, yeah if they both wanted to do it, I would do it.’
At 43, there is no doubt that Lesnar’s best days are behind him, but the prospect of seeing the goliath take on Jones, a star considered the Greatest of all Time by many, is a fight most fans would not be able to resist watching.
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