It's been a huge weekend for the WWE, kings of sports entertainment aka pro wrestling. First they set records at Sunday's WrestleMania 28 show with 78,363 fans in attendance and a gate of $8.9 million. Then they welcomed prodigal super-star Brock Lesnar back to the fold at last night's RAW. Lesnar has been away from the WWE since 2004.
Of course he managed to keep himself in the spotlight with a fairy-tale UFC run that saw him win MMA's biggest title -- the UFC heavyweight strap -- in just his 4th pro bout. Tragically his MMA career was cut short by diverticulitis requiring the removal of over a foot of colon. Lesnar fought after the 2010 surgery, but he was never the same and retired after losing his last two bouts to Cain Velasquez and Alistair Overeem.
Admittedly the WWE is using old stars like The Rock and Lesnar to reignite interest in their product, but given the enormous overlap between UFC fans and WWE fans this could bode ill for the UFC.
From 2005 to 2010 the UFC was on a relentless upswing and ate into the WWE's share of the pay-per-view market but since then growth has slowed. The new season of The Ultimate Fighter is struggling with eroding ratings so far and the UFC has struggled to find enough headliners to fulfill their obligations to Fox, FX and PPV.
The UFC cancelled a scheduled and announced PPV planned for March in Montreal. That was the first time in the Zuffa era that they've ever cancelled an announced show. They literally couldn't come up with a credible headlining fight and had to beat a retreat.
Fortunately UFC 145 featuring Jon Jones vs. Rashad Evans is coming up on April 21st. The long lay off between UFC's might make the fight an even bigger draw. The following card, UFC 146 featuring Junior dos Santos defending his heavyweight title against Alistair Overeem should also do well. The biggest card of all -- UFC 147's Brazilian stadium show featuring Anderson Silva rematching Chael Sonnen -- happens in June. It should be a hot spring for UFC fans.
As long as the evil genie that has seemingly cursed so many UFC main events since 2010 stays away, the UFC should be able to regain its momentum and keep the WWE in its now accustomed distant second place, but fans are fickle and if the WWE can build a new star or two while old Brock Lesnar is drawing eyeballs, things could get interesting in the nexus between combat sports and sports entertainment.