The motivation behind Brock Lesnar’s UFC return

Fighters fight to get paid. For all of those who say they love to fight, 99.99 percent of them would jump on the first plane back home if suddenly they weren’t paid for their efforts. They say they live to fight, but for most of them, the truth is they fight to live.

Brock Lesnar will fight Mark Hunt at UFC 200. (AP Photo)
Brock Lesnar will fight Mark Hunt at UFC 200. (AP Photo)

Fighting solely for money, though, is a dangerous and tricky proposition for most fighters.

There must be a passion, a competitive fire, an intense desire to prove oneself in the ultimate one-on-one battle, if a fighter is to be a success.

And Brock Lesnar, while admitting Monday during an interview on “SportsCenter” that he will receive a paycheck “with a lot of zeroes” to fight Mark Hunt at UFC 200 on July 9 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, seemed to have some of that old fire back.

A little more than a year after Lesnar said “I’m officially closing the door on MMA,” the former UFC heavyweight champion seemed particularly motivated to get back to fighting.

Lesnar is a master promoter, which is why he’s arguably the biggest draw the UFC has had, and why the WWE went so hard to bring him back. That means it’s often difficult to judge whether what he says is a work or not, but it sure seemed to be coming from the heart Monday during an interview with Hannah Storm.

Before Storm could even get to the relevant question – why? – Lesnar anticipated it and cut it off at the pass.

“I have to sit here and watch that,” he said, laughing, when his March 2015 interview was shown. “And I know, it’s ‘Why in God’s name are you doing this?’ [It’s] because I couldn’t live with that decision. Going back to that interview, it was a hard decision for me to make. That decision has haunted me for the last 15 months. I figured I couldn’t live like that for the rest of my life. 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 here 20 years from now saying, ‘You know what, I should have done that.’ On the biggest stage of all, I was on UFC 100. So why not be on UFC 200?”

Lesnar said it was solely his idea, and though he’s under contract to the WWE, he said he phoned UFC president Dana White to ask if it would be possible to return.

White, of course, was interested, but knew that the WWE contract would have to be addressed.

Details of the agreement between the UFC and WWE to allow Lesnar to compete are unclear, and a UFC spokesman told Yahoo Sports he was trying to obtain more information to clarify.

But this doesn’t look as if it is simply a promo for Lesnar’s appearance on the WWE’s SummerSlam event in August.

This sounds like a guy who loves to fight, is healthy and decided he wanted another crack at it. His first go-round in the UFC was a huge success, but was derailed by two bouts with diverticulitis.

The thing that makes great athletes unique is that competitive drive that burns at a higher level than in the rest of us. And Lesnar, now healthy, believes he can turn the page and erase the memory of his poor finish, when he was routed by Cain Velasquez and Alistair Overeem in his final two matches.

He has a difficult matchup in Hunt. Lesnar’s weakness in his first UFC stint was his stand-up, and his chin betrayed him several times. Hunt is one of the sport’s hardest punchers.

That he thinks he can win and was willing to fight whoever was offered is a positive sign that, while there may be some marketing angles to this, Lesnar’s return is basically because he wants to fight.

“This haunted me on the inside for a long time,” Lesnar said. “ … The true competitor in me is alive and well and I have to do this.”

It’s still unclear if this is a one-time thing or if Lensar will have a dual WWE/UFC career.

The best part of it, though, is that he is healthy and says he believes he’ll perform to the best of his abilities because of it.

“It haunted me because at the top of my career, I wasn’t at the top of my game,” Lesnar said. “I felt I was cheated out of my career in the UFC. In my mind and in my heart, I never lost to a foe. I never lost to my opponent. I lost to diverticulitis. That was my opponent that beat me.

“Other people may have other thoughts and say other things about the way I performed, but my performance was due to the illness, absolutely yes. I’m sitting here today feeling a thousand percent and I wouldn’t get in the Octagon if I didn’t.”