We may never know exactly what happened following Brock Lesnar's loss to Cain Velasquez at UFC 121. Some people insist that he had lost the heart to fight, and that Lesnar considered retiring from the sport. Others reported that Vince McMahon had approached Lesnar with a big money offer to appear and/or perform at Wrestlemania. And mindless voices on the internet provided tomes of conjecture and speculation on the former champ's whereabouts and motivations.
All of the talk is moot. Brock Lesnar is still contracted by Zuffa, LLC, and Dana White somehow convinced him to appear on Spike TV's reality show. Lesnar, for his own part, denies ever having spoke to McMahon about Wrestlemania. (WWE ended up getting The Rock to host the show.) Lesnar also contends that he never considered leaving the sport. I'm inclined to believe him.
The entire MMA industry breathed a sigh of relief when Lesnar emerged from a hunting-fueled media blackout to announce his plans to continue fighting. This is a man who has sold over one million pay-per-views in each of his four title fights. He helped push 600k buys in his UFC debut, outselling a light heavyweight title fight between popular fighters Quinton Jackson and Forrest Griffin later in the year. (That fight also had the benefit of a TUF season.) He hit 625k buys in his second fight in the UFC opposite the tough-but-unknown Heath Herring at UFC 87 (with Georges St. Pierre vs. Jon Fitch in the main event).
Did his drawing power take a hit after Cain Velasquez, in the words of others, exposed him at UFC 121? We won't know for sure until UFC 131, and even then we must take into consideration that Lesnar will be opposite a foreign fighter who has very little recognition outside of the insular MMA world.
But I guess that's what this show is for. Let's make no mistake: This season isn't about Junior dos Santos, nor is it about the 14 "young and hungry" fighter-contestants competing for a "six-figure" contract. This season is designed for, built by, and focused on Brock Lesnar. This is a chance to showcase Lesnar on cable television for ten weeks. If his image needs rehabilitating, it will be rehabilitated here.
Lesnar's inclusion on the show should also send a nice jolt of energy into a show that came back to earth over the last two seasons after the Kimbo Slice/"Rampage" Jackson/Rashad Evans love triangle in season ten. Despite Josh Koscheck's best efforts to rile him up, Georges St. Pierre just doesn't have the personality to captivate an audience on a reality TV show. And I still don't know why Dana White and Spike TV thought MMA fans wanted to see twelve weeks of semi-scripted television and a second rematch between Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell.
I'll be rooting for Brock Lesnar throughout this season and at UFC 131. You may think you want to see Junior dos Santos smash his face in, but you're rooting against MMA. The sport needs Lesnar to repair his brand on the Ultimate Fighter, and it needs him to beat dos Santos in impressive fashion.
Myles JuryChuck O’Niel
Team dos Santos