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Brock Lesnar reaches contract impasse with WWE

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Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Brock Lesnar, whose contract with World Wrestling Entertainment has less than five weeks to go, walked out of the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, without appearing as scripted and advertised on Monday's Raw television show.

Sources close to the situation have said Lesnar and WWE CEO Vince McMahon reached an impasse regarding terms of a new contract, and neither would budge. The issue was described as resolvable, but not yet resolved. McMahon was attempting to sign Lesnar prior to his deal expiring, where, on the free-agent market, he could play WWE, UFC and Bellator against each other.

The company sent out a Twitter message, as well as put on its web site, and had a commercial air on the USA Network all less than 20 minutes before the live show, promoting Lesnar's appearance. But as the show went on, there was no sign of him, and the announcers never said anything indicating he would or wouldn't be there.

Exactly what his future status is with WWE is unknown. The night before, after his UFC Fight Night main event win, Frank Mir brought up Lesnar and talked about wanting to face him, and knowing he needed to beat Antonio Silva that night to keep that possibility alive.

Lesnar has four scheduled appearances left before his contract expires, television appearances on March 9 in Pittsburgh, March 23 in Los Angeles and March 30 in San Jose, as well as headlining WrestleMania, on March 29 at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.

Lesnar faces Roman Reigns, the stage name for former Georgia Tech football star Joe Anoa'i, in a championship match that he is expected to lose. McMahon is hoping to make Anoa'i into the company's signature star, a role long held by John Cena, that had been historically held by people like Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, through beating Lesnar on a show that has sold approximately 50,000 tickets. Due to Lesnar's aura of legitimacy, based on winning both an NCAA and UFC heavyweight championship, he would be the best person for Anoa'i to beat to be elevated to that level.

The company has planned this direction out for approximately one year.

Lesnar's issues with McMahon were said to be purely business related to the new deal, and not regarding creative or his current contract. He is expected to appear for his remaining dates by those in the company because of the belief that missing them would constitute a contractual breach that could lead to legal action.    

The second Lesnar vs. Mir fight, for the UFC heavyweight title, in 2009, was the most successful non-boxing pay-per-view in history, drawing 1.6 million buys. Lesnar was UFC's most successful pay-per-view drawing card from 2008 to 2010, and many would argue, ever. He retired from MMA after a 2011 loss to Alistair Overeem, and returned to WWE in 2012, where he has been one of the entertainment company's biggest stars.

Those close to Lesnar have claimed that he was never 100 percent during his UFC reign due to suffering from diverticulitis, which nearly killed him in late 2009. His doctors stated that he had not been healthy virtually his entire UFC run, because of the disease. But as an inexperienced fighter, due largely to his size and wrestling ability, he captured the UFC title, and retained it twice, before losing it to Cain Velasquez.

It was always said Lesnar was interested in returning to UFC when this current deal expires, with the claim that he's now healthy and felt he had unfinished business. But Lesnar turns 38 this summer, and would have been out of the sport more than three years if he were to return.

The age, and because the odds are strong he would have more longevity as a pro wrestler than a fighter, seemed in favor of his signing a new pro wrestling deal.    

It was also thought with the WWE's business losing so much due to the start of the WWE Network, and with the company doing extensive layoffs and cost-cutting, that they wouldn't be able to afford Lesnar's high dollar deal for minimal dates. But the network subscription base increased significantly in January, which has made a substantial economic difference. In addition, after C.M. Punk signed with UFC, WWE, as a publicly traded company often compared with UFC, would not want to lose another of its signature stars to the same organization.