Why is Brock Lesnar returning to the Octagon to take part in a match at UFC 200? That was the question that many MMA fans asked after news about Lesnar’s return to the UFC broke on Saturday. Lesnar hasn’t fought in the UFC since 2011 when a disease called diverticulitis cut his MMA career short. He’s also an active participant in the WWE right now, which seems like it would create a clear conflict of interest for Lesnar (especially when you consider some of the things UFC president Dana White has said about pro wrestling in the past). To set the record straight, Lesnar appeared on ESPN’s SportsCenter this morning to answer questions about his comeback—and to reveal who he will fight at UFC 200.
If you’re here to find out who Lesnar is going to do battle with on July 9, we’ll save you the suspense. His opponent is going to be Mark Hunt. Hunt is 12-10-1 as a professional MMA fighter, and he won his last match in March by knocking out Frank Mir. Lesnar told ESPN's Hannah Storm he believes the fight between him and Hunt is "what the people want to see." But Lesnar’s explanation as to why he’s coming back is just as interesting, if not more interesting, than who his UFC 200 opponent will be. He told Storm that he hasn’t been able to shake the thoughts of returning to the UFC ever since he left the organization, which is why he decided to try and complete a comeback.
“I couldn’t live with that decision,” he told Storm. “I’m a big believer in living out your dreams and facing your fears and facing the reality of, I don’t want to be sitting 20 years from now saying, ‘You know what, son? You should have went and did that.’”
Lesnar also revealed that he’s actually been thinking about making a comeback for months now, and he reiterated several times that his UFC comeback was his decision and not something the UFC came to him about first to fill a slot on the UFC 200 card.
“This was very simple,” he said. “This was me sitting having a cup of coffee at my farm in Canada and waking up every day and feeling this feeling of, ‘Was that the right decision?’ I didn’t even tell my wife. I told nobody. This thing haunted me on the inside for a long time. I thought if I was in the WWE, I could still have these feelings in the ring, but the true competitor inside of me is still alive and well. I have to do this.”
Additionally, Lesnar—who said he had a “big boy conversation” with Vince McMahon about his decision to return to the UFC—talked about how his second stint in the UFC is going to be different from his first. He went 5-3 during his first foray into the world of MMA, which spanned from 2007 through 2011, and finished with consecutive losses to Cain Velasquez and Alistair Overeem.
“At the top of my career, I wasn’t at the top of my game," he said. "I felt like I was cheated out of my career in the UFC. I didn’t lose. In my mind and in my heart, I never lost to a foe. I lost to my diverticulitis. That was my opponent who beat me. Other people may have other thoughts and say other things about the way I performed. My performance was due to the illness. I’m sitting here today, I feel 1000 percent. I wouldn’t get in the Octagon if I didn’t. I’m not a second guesser. The only thing I second guessed was my decision of stepping away from the Octagon. I know it’s been a long time but I feel great. I don’t have to fake it. I’m not faking it and telling anybody that ‘I’m in the greatest shape of my life.’ This is for real. I’m so excited and I’m glad with my decision.”
Lesnar also discussed why he feels now is the perfect time to make his UFC comeback.
“I was on UFC 100,” he said, referencing a July 2009 fight with Mir, “so why not be on UFC 200?”
Hunt hasn’t commented publicly on the fight yet—Lesnar said that Hunt was signing his contract for the fight as he was walking out for his SportsCenter appearance—but with just about a month to go before UFC 200, you can expect Lesnar and Hunt to start promoting this fight immediately.
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