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Brock Lesnar the ace in the hole for UFC 200, and he comes with curiosity

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

It wasn’t the final time Brock Lesnar competed in the literal world of fighting, but the lasting image was of him frothing alarmingly at the mouth and ranting like a lunatic after beating Frank Mir at UFC 100. That was the Brock Lesnar that broke the UFC’s pay-per-view records, the one that Conor McGregor has been indirectly gunning for ever since. That was the grumpy, red-hued, trail-of-zeroes-on-the-paycheck star from the world of pro wrestling, back when the sword on his thorax was pointing one direction and one direction only: up up up.

Now, some four-and-a-half years since he last appeared, Lesnar’s returning at UFC 200 against Mark Hunt. That was the ace up the UFC’s sleeve that people were holding on for. Not so long ago, Lesnar chose the WWE over the UFC to officially close the chapter on his shoeless foray. As with everything in MMA, the word "officially" is really just interpretive smoke. Lesnar is coming back because, as he said during a spot on Sportscenter a couple of weeks back, he couldn’t live with his decision.

That certainly shakes things up a bit.

Lesnar still holds a tie in the UFC record for most title defenses in heavyweight history with two. But there was always a curiosity as to how far he could have taken things if he hadn’t suffered from diverticulitis during his run. His stomach issues sapped him of strength and vitality, and yet he still did some pretty unique things in the sport. It’s true he never liked to take a punch, but those losses — particularly his last one against Alistair Overeem at UFC 141 in 2011 — contained some small print.

That he’s a colossus in the world of PPV dollars sang to him like an evening bird when it came a gala event like UFC 200. Just as he was then, Lesnar loves to shake that money tree with all his might. Yet the UFC is only too happy to splurge on his return. With no McGregor available and no Ronda Rousey (in sight), Lesnar is the UFC’s must-see addition to give the July 9 card that "special gleam." Lesnar fixed a good many potholes.

Still, in 2016 it’s a different world from the one Lesnar left. These days everybody wears Reebok, which may offend his entrepreneurial sensibilities. There is random out-of-competition testing by the sport’s most infamous third party, USADA. By announcing he’s fighting at UFC 200 just a month out from the event, even though he’d been in talks about it (according to him) for three months…well…let’s just say everybody has a game plan. Hey, he's just a white boy that happens to be jacked. And the heavyweight division is no longer ruled by Cain Velasquez, the man who took it from him at UFC 121; it’s now being rented by Stipe Miocic. The belt remains just so many vegetables. It’s a hot potato and a dangling carrot.

How does the now 38-year old recent Canadian Lesnar fit into the current landscape? It’s hard to know, but if he beats Hunt here’s guessing that high will lead to more fights. It won’t be a one-off. Most of the top guys in the division are his age or older. In other words: He’s in heavyweight prime. There’s still a chance that Lesnar makes a play for the title. With his health problems behind him, he might appear like the raging bull that roughed up poor Heath Herring in his former home of Minnesota, or the one that annihilated Frank Mir at UFC 100 and proceeded to tell the world that Coors Light was some kind of celebratory libation (while standing on the Bud Light emblem).

To hear him say it, he’s the modern day Bo Jackson of the fight worlds. He’s a star in the choreographed version of things, as well as the literal. He still plans on being at WWE SummerSlam in August, and now comes back just when the UFC could use him. Lesnar remains big business; he’s sport and spectacle. Whether it’s an itch to leave things off in a better place than he left them before, or a money grab, or some combination of both, he’s back.

And that certainly opens some things up again.

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