Just over a month since he announced his return to combat fighting, Brock Lesnar doesn’t appear to be as prepared as he’d like for his UFC 200 appearance.
Yet, after more than a five-year absence from the sport, he’s enthused as never before.
And though the comeback of the former UFC heavyweight champion and current WWE headliner might be a one-time appearance, maybe it won’t.
Perhaps all that matters is that Lesnar’s back, and after drawing the second-largest pay-per-view in company history when he successfully defended his belt over Frank Mir at UFC 100 in 2009, another financial windfall is expected.
Lesnar, who’ll turn 39 next week, will fight eighth-ranked heavyweight Mark Hunt in the main event of UFC 200 at T-Mobile Arena. The fight has been elevated as the main event due to Jon Jones’ positive drug test.
The heavy-handed veteran Hunt, 42, has knocked out both Mir and former heavyweight title challenger Antonio Silva in the first round of his past two fights.
“Obviously, I’m here to win a fight. I’m prepared for whatever,” said Lesnar, plotting to win by relying on the wrestling skill he honed in NCAA action.
When someone asked Lesnar at Wednesday’s news conference how many rounds he sparred in stand-up striking, there was extended silence.
“What’d you say?” Lesnar asked, laughs building as he forced the reporter to repeat the question then quickly answered, “Three-thousand!”
Lesnar unmistakably relished the authenticity of the event.
“I feel … awesome,” he said. “My health is behind me. I’m sitting here at UFC 200, soaking it all in.”
His thirst for non-scripted fighting outside WWE proved undeniable after he felt completely recovered from the intestinal ailment diverticulitis that he blamed for his departure following a knockout loss to Alistair Overeem.
“I [considered coming back] for a while, and really I was standing there one day on my property [in Canada] and just thought, ‘It’s time,’” he said.
“I can’t sit and think about this and be caught up in this thought process of wanting and wishing and wondering if I should do it.
“I’m a person who pulls the trigger. I don’t want any regrets. That’s how simple it really was. I didn’t want to be sitting around the rest of my days on this earth wondering why I didn’t step back in the cage again, so here we are.”
How long it will last is known to only a small circle of men, perhaps only Lesnar and his WWE boss Vince McMahon, who wasn’t immediately available for comment on the hypothetical scenario of an impressive Saturday victory by Lesnar.
UFC President Dana White has respectfully maintained this is “one-and-done” venture, but company Chairman Lorenzo Fertitta confessed victory could provoke follow-up conversations. On the dais Wednesday, for instance, sat Cain Velsasquez, who took Lesnar’s belt at Honda Center.
“Brock Lesnar remains under contract to WWE, however, we granted his request for a one-off opportunity to compete at UFC 200,” a WWE spokesperson emailed in a statement to the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday. “Brock will make his WWE return at SummerSlam on August 21 [at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center] live on WWE Network.”
Lesnar acknowledged, “I’m booked through August and then we’ll see what happens,” with WWE, but he’s implied in an interview with Fox that if things are going well in the UFC, McMahon will find a happier Lesnar a more pleasant employee.
“I guess [the future beyond UFC 200] is not a question for me, that’s a question for Vince McMahon, right?” Lesnar said at the news conference. “Let’s get through Saturday and see what happens.”
The packed UFC 200 fight week schedule begins Thursday night at MGM Grand with Huntington Beach-trained lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos (25-7) making the second defense of his belt, against Eddie Alvarez (24-7).
Alvarez has posted consecutive victories by decision over former champion Anthony Pettis and top contender Gilbert Melendez.
Dos Anjos, meanwhile, is fighting for the first time since injuring his foot in training and withdrawing from a scheduled March 5 title defense against Conor McGregor, which triggered a multitude of events that has led to McGregor seeking revenge Aug. 20 against the victorious replacement opponent Nate Diaz.