With a historic UFC 300 expected to take place in the first quarter of 2024, the growing theory has been the promotion could pull out all the stops to make it a special event. If so, why wouldn’t the UFC turn to two of its most popular champions of the past for a mainstream boost?
After all, neither Lesnar nor Rousey – who have been two of WWE’s biggest draws of the past several years – closed the door on competing again in MMA. But White doesn’t see a return happening with either former fighter.
Why not Lesnar?
Lesnar’s time in the UFC wasn’t long as he made just eight appearances, but there’s no denying the impact he made. Seven of his octagon appearances occurred between February 2008 and December 2011, during which time he finished Randy Couture at UFC 91 to claim the heavyweight title in just his second fight in the promotion. Two more memorable wins, a rematch vs. Frank Mir at UFC 100 and a comeback submission of Shane Carwin, followed before Lesnar was taken out by Cain Velasquez (in a title-fight loss) and Alistair Overeem.
Lesnar went back to WWE but then was granted permission and a U.S. Anti-Doping Agency exemption to compete against Mark Hunt more than five years later at UFC 200. Lesnar won by unanimous decision that night in Las Vegas, but the result was later overturned to a no contest after he tested positive for a banned substance.
Considering Lesnar, now 46, is one of only two fighters to compete at UFC 100 and UFC 200, it would make sense to keep his event milestone streak alive with a UFC 300 appearance, but apparently White doesn’t see it that way.
“I think Brock’s done,” White told Sports Illustrated. “I don’t think he ever comes back.”
Why not Rousey?
Aside from Conor McGregor, Rousey arguably was the biggest star in UFC history and took the sport by storm during her heyday. White has said it was Rousey who changed his stance on women fighting in the UFC.
Rousey inherited the inaugural UFC women’s bantamweight championship upon the acquisition of Strikeforce and then proceeded to defend the title six times from February 2013 to August 2015. Then Rousey’s career plummeted after her shocking knockout loss to Holly Holm, which forced her to take a year off before she returned 13 months later to challenge then-champ Amanda Nunes at UFC 207, where Rousey was pummeled and lost by TKO in 48 seconds in December 2016.
After that, Rousey transitioned to pro wrestling with WWE. In 2018, she became the first female fighter inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame.
White only ever has positive things to say about Rousey, but he doesn’t envision a return to the cage.
“There’s no shot,” White said. “She’s accomplished everything she set out to do. … Her dream was to win a UFC championship, then win a WWE championship, and she’s done it. Now she’s starting a family. Ronda has made so much money, and she’s still making a lot of money in sponsorships.”
One return more likely than the other?
White has a history of saying things and then changing his mind, so perhaps a UFC return for Lesnar or Rousey isn’t completely ruled out. If one was more likely to happen, it’s probably Rousey given the circumstances.
With Nunes recently vacating the women’s bantamweight title and announcing her retirement from MMA, the division could use a boost. Rousey is reported to have had her final WWE match earlier this month at SummerSlam, which sets her free to do as she pleases.
According to a report in the Daily Mail, which cites a close source to Rousey, that would be to make a return to the cage.
“She just had a match at SummerSlam and is looking to wind down her time and commitments with the WWE, and she is now focusing on potentially making a run to have one last fight in the UFC and compete at UFC 300 when that presents itself sometime next year,” the source said.
The plot thickens.