By Thomas Albano
A report came out today that current WWE Universal Champion and former UFC Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar is reportedly back in the USADA (United States Anti-Doping Agency) Testing Pool, and rumors have begun to circulate that Lesnar may attempt a full-on UFC comeback.
In addition, to fuel that rumor, there is heavy speculation that Lesnar may be dropping the Universal Championship at SummerSlam in August.
The speculation and reports first began when an MMA insider with the Twitter account @TalkMMA claimed that he had been told about Lesnar’s return to the USADA pool by two sources.
I just had a 2nd person tell me that Brock Lesnar is back in the USADA testing pool. Rumor around WWE is Brock is dropping the belt at SS.
— #Dizz © (@TalkMMA) July 19, 2017
However,Jeff Novitzky, UFC vice president of athlete health and performance has refuted this report.
“If he ever re-entered the program, he’d have to serve [the duration of the suspension] before he’d be able to compete,” Novitzky told MMA Fighting.
Lesnar made a one-time return appearance at UFC 200 in July 2016, when he took on Mark Hunt. Originally winning via unanimous decision, Lesnar tested positive for a banned substance. His win would be overturned to a No Contest, and USADA would suspended Lesnar until July 15, 2017.
Lesnar previously teased a return to the UFC in early 2015, when he was reportedly in negotiations with both the UFC and WWE (this was right before WrestleMania 31, which Lesnar headlined as the defending WWE World Heavyweight Champion). Despite the UFC offering him a contract worth “ten times more” than his previous deal, he took a three-year deal with the WWE, which supposedly extends to WrestleMania 34 on April 8, 2018.
Supposedly, Lesnar was allowed to perform the UFC 200 bout with WWE’s approval, or there may be a clause in his contract that allows him to do functions such as UFC bouts when he wants to.
Since his suspension from the MMA cage, Lesnar has been involved in several high-profile bouts within the past year in WWE. From SummerSlam 2016 to the most-recent event (Great Balls of Fire 2017), Lesnar has feuded with the likes of Randy Orton, Goldberg and Samoa Joe. At WrestleMania 33, Lesnar defeated Goldberg in the co-main event to win the WWE Universal Championship, the main championship of WWE’s Raw brand.
While the UFC executive’s quote deals a blow, many still hope with this new rumor of a return, Lesnar could be able to perform at the next UFC event in Madison Square Garden, which is currently scheduled to be UFC 217 on Nov. 4. However, as Novtizky noted, Lesnar officially retired from MMA back in February; when a retirement happens, the USADA suspension clock essentially freezes.
As reported by Fightful.com’s Sean Ross Sapp on Twitter, Lesnar would need to complete the suspension and re-enter the testing pool before being allowed to fight again.
Lesnar retired with 5 months to serve of a USADA suspension. He has to re-enter the testing pool & fulfill that time before fighting in UFC
— Sean Ross Sapp (@SeanRossSapp) July 19, 2017
Now, as this Forbes article states: “Lesnar has yet to undergo any USADA drug tests in 2017, but there is also speculation that he could receive yet another exemption in order to bypass the fourth-month notification requirement (for retired fighters to notify UFC of their intent to come out of retirment) and make his way onto the MSG card, much like he did for his UFC 200 fight against Hunt. While that would be unprecedented, the thought is that Lesnar is such a draw (he helped UFC 200 generate an estimated 1.2 million pay-per-view buys) that anything is possible because, well, money talks.”
So, let’s hypothetically say Lesnar does come back for a UFC bout. If he re-enters the testing pool ASAP, his suspension could be up right before Christmas. While that would be too late for the tentative UFC 217 at MSG in November, there would still be one more pay-per-view event to go for the UFC in the calendar year. Currently scheduled for Dec. 30, 2017, is UFC 219 from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
The UFC has been having a supercard event around New Year’s time every year since 2011 (with the exception of 2014). In fact, Lesnar headlined the 2011 card right before heading back to WWE. With that in mind, if Lesnar does come back for at least one more fight, maybe Lesnar is a headliner for the final UFC card of 2017.
Maybe what the UFC can do is something like they’re doing with UFC 213 and 214 this month. That would be UFC 217 in November (regardless of if it’s in NY or Vegas) and UFC 218 in early December can be treated like 213 this month — pretty good cards but not too stacked.
Then, UFC 219 — the final card of 2017 — they go all out with a massive card akin to UFC 200 or UFC 205. I’m talking Lesnar’s return, three title bouts, and a massive undercard. Now, what could main event this bout? Maybe not Lesnar considering he didn’t main event his first return bout at UFC 200.
BUT, Conor McGregor supposedly wants to return and have one UFC bout in 2017, defending his Lightweight Championship. And I could see it happening at this event — it could be against Khabib Nurmagomedov, against Tony Ferguson, or even a trilogy bout with Nick Diaz (yes, this time at lightweight and with the title on the line).
Either way, the sound of it looks sick. So, maybe patience needs to win out here. And maybe, if Lesnar comes back, it should be for the end of this year, not November.