Brock Lesnar's time in the UFC -- or at least the tease of a return -- appears to be done for now. That still leaves many lingering questions for the former UFC heavyweight and WWE Universal champion.
Lesnar, 41, will not be fighting Daniel Cormier for the UFC heavyweight title this summer as initially expected. ESPN reported Tuesday night that UFC president Dana White considers Lesnar retired and the UFC is moving in the direction of Cormier vs. Stipe Miocic II for the belt in August.
Meanwhile, just a few hours later, WWE announced its June 7 return to Saudi Arabia, advertising Lesnar as being part of that show. In a statement to ESPN, WWE confirmed Lesnar is under contract with the company, though it did not specify the terms of the deal.
When considering the past few years and Lesnar seemingly putting MMA behind him for good, his future moneymaking opportunities seem to be linked with WWE for the foreseeable future -- or do they? With so much uncertainty lingering around his future, let's hash out what we know about Lesnar's future in pro wrestling, MMA and beyond.
What does an MMA retirement mean for Lesnar? And what about WWE and the UFC?
It's just about certain now that Lesnar will not be fighting in the UFC this summer, and it seems like a long shot that he'll compete in that promotion in 2019. That leaves a considerable gap in Lesnar's schedule that won't be spent entirely hiding away with his family in Regina, Saskatchewan. Maybe.
Though it seems highly unlikely Lesnar would return to any semblance of a full schedule with WWE, it does seem like a distinct possibility that he'll be around for at least a few of its major "pay-per-view" events like SummerSlam and Survivor Series. Perhaps even more than that.
For WWE, that is a very good thing, and there's more than an off chance Vince McMahon dropped a few more dollars in Lesnar's lap to convince him to focus on WWE and not head back to the Octagon this year. In an era where television ratings are dropping like luchadores from the sky, Lesnar is a true draw, and that matters.
Lesnar not returning to the UFC is at least a short-term blow for that organization. Cormier vs. Lesnar would have been a big moneymaker for the UFC, there is no doubt. Lesnar has always been worth the trouble for the UFC, despite drug-test issues that ultimately caused his UFC 200 victory to be turned into a no contest and delayed a potential fight as Lesnar reentered the testing pool. But Cormier vs. Miocic II is not the worst consolation prize, and keeps a tenuous amount of meritocracy alive in the heavyweight division. Lesnar fighting for the heavyweight title coming off a positive drug test and a two-year layoff was always kind of a farce.
What does WWE do with Lesnar from a storyline perspective?
Lesnar lost the WWE Universal title to Seth Rollins at WrestleMania 35. His next match is more than likely to be June 7 in Saudi Arabia, with an opponent to be determined. It's very difficult to imagine Lesnar not being in the Universal title picture if he were to remain on Raw. More on that in a minute.
Rollins will defend the Universal championship against AJ Styles at Money in the Bank on May 19 in Hartford, Connecticut. It seems a bit early for Rollins to lose the belt there, though you never know with WWE. There's at least a possibility that Rollins retains there and defends against Lesnar in a rematch in Saudi Arabia. Another possible direction for Lesnar on that show could be a matchup with another "legend." Goldberg and The Undertaker have been advertised for the event and there are probably more big names to come.
Outside of Rollins, the money program for Lesnar on Raw is Styles. Their match at Survivor Series 2017 was incredible, one of Lesnar's best in years. It feels like Lesnar vs. Styles is a future matchup on a major show, whether it be SummerSlam or sometime after. Lesnar going against a babyface Miz on Raw would also be incredibly intriguing. Then, of course there's the inevitable return match with Braun Strowman. Regardless of the feud, odds are high that Lesnar is holding the Universal title again before the close of this year.
It's hard to envision Lesnar being on Smackdown, but in October that show will move to Fox, and that could mean a shift in focus. If there is any chance of that, a Lesnar program with Kofi Kingston would be extremely fresh and interesting. And then there's always revisiting Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns again.
Would WWE fans really want Lesnar back to a more regular schedule?
The knock on Lesnar from the perspective of the "WWE Universe" is that he's not fully focused on wrestling, doesn't want to be there and is loathe to show up and do his job. Some of that is manufactured heat via WWE storylines. Some of it is reality; everyone knows Lesnar is a guy who prefers to be secluded with his family on his farm hundreds of miles away from the rest of civilization.
If Lesnar were to actually come back and appear on Raw on a regular basis (maybe even wrestle on television -- what a novel concept!), the fan base would embrace him. But if we're being honest, Lesnar doesn't need to do that. He gets paid far too much to do the streamlined dates that he does now, so why would he change? Despite the backlash against him from fans, the bottom line is that people still want to watch Lesnar. And there's a case to be made that not having him on TV regularly keeps him special, making it a big deal when he is there.
Is there any way Lesnar could depart WWE for upstart All Elite Wrestling?
Sure. Lesnar has shown that he's only loyal to himself, his family and his wallet, and you can't necessarily fault him for that. If Lesnar thought he could make more money in AEW, he'd surely explore that option. Perhaps there's some time in the future where he uses AEW for leverage with WWE the same way he has used the UFC for all these years.
Several times over the past few months, Chris Jericho has made not-so-subtle callouts of Lesnar. Cody Rhodes has mentioned his name at least once, too. It would be crazy for Tony Khan and AEW to dismiss bringing in Lesnar if he became available. The question is, would Lesnar ever be available to AEW contractually? The answer: if he thought it would benefit him and his family financially, probably so.
Is Lesnar really retired from MMA this time?
In 2015, Lesnar sat down for an interview on SportsCenter and announced he would be retiring from the UFC and would be making WWE his full focus. Sixteen months later, Lesnar fought Mark Hunt at UFC 200 in July 2016. That wasn't the only time Lesnar was less than completely forthcoming about his intentions, either. Fool us once, shame on you; fool us a half-dozen times, shame on us.
White considers Lesnar retired, though it's unclear if Lesnar has formally done so and removed himself from the United States Anti-Doping Agency drug-testing pool. If he does that, it would be considerably more official. The fact is there will be big fights available to Lesnar in the future. Jon Jones is a name that comes to mind. It's hard to imagine Lesnar ignoring those possibilities -- even if it means using them just for leverage. Like always, Lesnar is "retired" from the UFC until he's not.
Lesnar is 41 years old now, but still in incredible condition. If you go down the UFC's heavyweight rankings, there are several fighters older than 40. So Lesnar has a number of years left to realistically pit WWE and the UFC against each other contractually.