Last night, the UFC announced the return of former heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar, whose opponent will be revealed on Monday. You'll be seeing Lesnar back in the Octagon on July 9th at UFC 200, serving as the co-main to Cormier-Jones 2.
To briefly go away from the point of this article, I am sure most fans are thrilled that the former #1 PPV draw in the sport is making his return at UFC 200. Let's face it, a good chunk of the rather harsh disapproval of this card is a combination of McGregor vs. Edgar not being made, plus the total lack of nostalgic value. MMA fans are different from boxing fans in the sense that MMA fans love nostalgia. PRIDE NEVER DIE and all of that jazz. UFC 200 didn't have Anderson Silva, GSP, or Fedor, so the complaints rolled in. Brock's here, so now that void has been filled.
Personally? Lesnar's last 3 fights showed a clear downward trend. He almost lost but then won against Carwin, then was aggressive but lost to Cain, and then was tepid and had zilch for Overeem. That's not a guy I'm itching to see fight again, but that's just me. I'm sure I'll be swept up in the moment like everyone else next month.
Anyway, let's get to the main goal of today's post. It has indeed been just under 5 full years since Brock's last UFC appearance. December 30th, 2011 marked the supposed retirement from MMA for Lesnar, who returned to the WWE shortly after losing to Alistair Overeem. He's still under WWE contract, so that won't be going away, but incredibly, Lesnar is set to be fighting in the UFC in 2016. Five years is a pretty damn long time between fights, but he has been working on his kimuras in the WWE, so we could be seeing ADCC Lesnar next month.
I'm going to invite you all into my time machine and take you back to the very end of 2011 and give you an idea of what the MMA landscape looked like -- everything from television deals to MMA promotions to major champions will be covered. Sound good? Let's goooooooooooooo.
- The new insurance policy was just 7 months old.
- The UFC flyweight division had just been announced on December 10th, 2011.
- UFC 141's preliminary card was the final time that the promotion had a live event on Spike TV, before the UFC's big broadcasting agreement with FOX kicked in starting in January 2012. Fight Pass didn't exist, so all UFC events aired live on TV with prelims airing on Facebook/Youtube.
- From UFC 129-140, PPV main cards started at 9 PM ET/6 PM PT, meaning during the summer time, West Coast viewers could essentially watch an entire UFC show before sunset. They ended this practice for UFC 141 and have not returned to 9 PM ET since then.
- Ronda Rousey had a record of 4-0 in what was her first year in professional MMA. She wouldn't fight Miesha Tate until March 2012, when she made her bantamweight debut.
- Current lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos was coming off a loss to Gleison Tibau on the UFC 139 Facebook prelims.
- Current champions Conor McGregor, Robbie Lawler, Daniel Cormier, Miesha Tate, and Joanna Jedrzejczyk (and obviously the entire women's 115 and 135 lbs rosters) were not signed to UFC contracts, although Lawler, Cormier, and Tate were under Strikeforce contracts and Zuffa had purchased SF earlier in the year.
- Jedrzejczyk didn't have her first pro MMA bout until May 2012.
- New heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic had just made his UFC debut two months prior to Lesnar vs. Overeem, winning a unanimous decision against Joey Beltran.
- The UFC had just begun experimenting with five-round non-title main events. In addition to Brock/Reem, the UFC's only previous non-title five-rounders were Michael Bisping vs. Jason Miller, Dan Henderson vs. Mauricio Rua I, and Chris Leben vs. Mark Munoz.
- Speaking of Leben, his 2nd failed drug test resulted in a UFC-enforced 1 year ban.
The Nogueira brothers were just 117 years old.Apologies, I've been told this factoid is inaccurate.
- Jon Jones had been instructed to go get some fans by Greg Jackson, presumably to help wake Lyoto Machida up.
- Nate Diaz did this to Donald Cerrone.
- Anthony Johnson was two weeks away from trying to make middleweight vs. Vitor Belfort.
- Kenny Florian was still an active UFC fighter, until his official retirement announcement midway through 2012.
- Post-fight bonuses for UFC 141 were $75,000. In fact, aside from UFC 125, which had $60,000 awards, all PPVs in 2011 had awards ranging from $70,000-$129,000 (the $129,000 was for UFC 129).
- In the first week of December, an interim welterweight title fight between Nick Diaz vs. Carlos Condit had been booked after Georges St-Pierre injured his knee again.
- Three of Bellator MMA's current champions -- Liam McGeary, Rafael Carvalho, Andrey Koreshkov -- hadn't fought for the promotion yet. Carvalho had made his MMA debut (and lost) two weeks before Lesnar's last UFC fight.
- Hector Lombard was 1 month removed from knocking out Trevor Prangley, his final fight with Bellator before signing with the UFC. The main event that night, opposite Shogun vs. Hendo I, was Alvarez vs. Chandler I.
- Bellator MMA aired on MTV2 and wouldn't move to Spike TV until 2013, but by 12/30/2011, Viacom had already purchased a majority stake in the company.
- Joe Warren had just been KO'd by Alexis Vila, and would be KO'd a million times over by Pat Curran in March 2012.
- Cole Konrad was Bellator's heavyweight champion.
- Ben Askren was taken to a split decision by Jay Hieron in October 2011, the only time he hasn't won via either finish or a unanimous decision to this day.
- NBC Sports Network, current home to World Series of Fighting, which itself wouldn't stage its first event until November 2012, was formerly known as Versus.
- Luke Rockhold was just 1 week away from a Strikeforce title defense against Keith Jardine. Yes, that Keith Jardine. Also on that Strikeforce card, King Mo fought Lorenz Larkin at light heavyweight, and Robbie Lawler KO'd Adlan Amagov at middleweight.
- Cris Cyborg viciously destroyed Hiroko Yamanaka on December 17th, only to fail her drug test and lose her Strikeforce featherweight title on January 6th, 2012.
- Justin Gaethje only had 3 professional fights and otherwise didn't have a Wikipedia page.