There is a creativity in fight sport promotion that blurs the lines. Fighters fight. They promote, too. The best can fight and promote.
As UFC 226 drew to a close we experienced a moment in which UFC met WWE in large strides.
Brock Lesnar thumping the ground, pushing past gate guards, shoving Daniel Cormier, after a moment of sporting glory. Genuine sporting glory.
Lesnar's arrival, after two years away - it was five before that - meant two things... pay per view sales needed, and a storyline for the heavyweight belt.
But there are questions marks. There have to be... especially when it comes to bans for performance enhancing drugs.
That's what the mixed martial arts world saw last night as the new 'Champ Champ' Cormier completed his mission in the Octagon with a dramatic crumpling of Stipe Miocic in the opening round. He took Miocic's one-twos, felt he could handled them, and began to walk his foe down. Boom. Cormier a double champion at light-heavyweight and heavyweight.
Arguably now one of the greats of the sport.... all 245lbs and 5ft 11ins of DC. Before there was time to celebrate, the storyline fired up.
Then that man Lesnar appeared. It was like a script direct from WWE, as he stepped into the Octagon, and shoved Cormier so hard, it had to be staged. It was. We know it was. We are expected to buy in... as fans will when they fight at Madison Square Garden, or back in the T-Mobile Arena, in either November, or January, or whenever the law makers allow Lesnar back again.
Let's remind ourselves that Lesnar fought here in the UFC last two years ago, at UFC 200, against Mark Hunt, claimed the victory after which it was revealed he had tested positive for a banned substance. He had twice tested positive for the estrogen blocker clomiphene and he was suspended.
— #UFC226: �� Miocic vs. Cormier �� (@btsportufc) July 8, 2018
Two things: Lesnar is a drugs cheat. So are many in the sport. But he is coming back to face Cormier for the title. But the message is not a good one. The UFC has done more than any organisation to rid the sport of PEDs, and its testing partner, the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) are working together to create a clean sport, for the benefit of the athletes.
It is poignant that this situation involves Cormier. Look at what he has endured with Jon Jones, currently banned. Lesnar is now coming back against Cormier, has not yet served time on his full suspension, and shall be rewarded - November, January, or whenever it is - with a heavyweight title shot against a fighter who has just won the gold.
The transparency of the UFC saying that it needs to create money is out there. It needs major ppv events. Lesnar will provide that. But it challenges the very thing the UFC are doing right with USADA. Right now, Conor McGregor, the Diaz brothers, Nick and Nate, and Jones, are all out of action. They are all also the major stars.
Lesnar was the next, 'go-to guy'. He got the call. He'll get the fight. It will sell. But the lines are very blurred
Cormier may defend his light-heavyweight belt next. But his next heavyweight fight will be against Lesnar. It really will be 'WWE vs UFC'.
Elsewhere, as the bustling International Fight Week concluded, heavyweight Derrick Lewis got the win he wanted over Francis Ngannou, but not in the way he wanted it. Lewis won by dint of doing the least amount that has arguably ever been done by a heavyweight over fifteen minutes in an Octagon.
It was literally nothing, but a smidge more than the nothing that Ngannou nosed out there. Negative, nonsensical, a non-fight. It was like a 0-0 bore draw. No-one could have envisaged the fight going that way. If the UFC are looking to rise their stock, and green ones, with a Cormier-Lesnar matchup at Madison Square Garden, Ngannou's stock is bankrupt on the weakness of this performance.
The gate was $5,677,238.21, the attendance was a (sold out) 17,464, and the performances of the night were awarded to Cormier, and Khalil Rountree Jr., Anthony Pettis, and Paul Costa.
Rountree dropped and finished Gokhan Saki with a great left down the pipe, Pettis - undersized as a lightweight, in my view - reminded us of the genius he possesses when he showed his striking brilliance to stun and hurt Mike Chiesa and then finished him with sublime jiu jitsu, and, on the last fight of the prelims, Costa drew Uriah Hall into a scrap, and demolished his rival with a vicious se and round barrage. And so the fight circus rolls on...