Brock Lesnar's itch to write a better ending to his UFC story will affect his WWE career whether he puts on his fighting gloves again or not.
Only a year removed from UFC 200, when Lesnar made a one-match comeback to MMA, rumors of WWE's universal champion seeing another return are buzzing.
After beating Mark Hunt last July, Lesnar tested positive for a banned substance. In the midst of serving a suspension for the violation, he retired. He's since been a force of nature for WWE, colliding with the likes of Goldberg and Samoa Joe.
And now Lesnar has set the stage for a possible UFC return.
WHAT A SLAM by @BrockLesnar! #UFC200 https://t.co/E0Yhej0yli2016-7-10 04:24:59
Ryan Satin of Pro Wrestling Sheet reported that Lesnar has re-entered the USADA testing pool. But it's not so he can fight this year; it's a means to prep for the future.
"Sources tell us Brock’s contract with WWE expires not long after WrestleMania 34 next year and he’s already made it clear to backstage officials that he currently doesn’t intend to re-sign," Satin wrote.
The idea that Lesnar could jump ship anytime soon is flawed. He has time left to serve.
Fightful's Sean Ross Sapp explained the situation:
Sean Ross Sapp @SeanRossSapp
Lesnar retired with 5 months to serve of a USADA suspension. He has to re-enter the testing pool & fulfill that time before fighting in UFC2017-7-19 15:20:16
Dave Meltzer noted on Figure Four Online that the earliest Lesnar could fight for UFC would be mid-December.
What does all of this mean on the WWE side of things? The possibility of The Beast Incarnate heading toward the Octagon again will be storyline fodder, incentive for WWE to make a title change and a talking point at the negotiation table.
Whether Lesnar actually fights in the Octagon again, WWE is sure to use all of this buzz to bolster The Beast Incarnate's in-ring image.
Lesnar is a special specimen. He's the only NCAA wrestling and UFC champ on the roster. It's effortless to sell him as a legitimate athlete, as a dangerous predator.
If there's an opening to remind fans of that, WWE is sure to take it.
Last year, ahead of Lesnar's fight with Mark Hunt at UFC 200, WWE filled its YouTube page with promo videos for the clash. It referenced it on TV. It happily shined a light on Lesnar's status as a crossover athlete.
The audience can expect these UFC rumors to creep into the storylines on Raw.
Paul Heyman will likely incorporate them into his promos. He can talk about how Lesnar is wanted everywhere, how he's the baddest man on the planet, how the champ wants to hold both the universal title and the UFC Heavyweight Championship at the same time.
Lesnar's potential UFC return will be a subplot to what is unfolding on the road to SummerSlam.
SummerSlam Less of a Sure Thing
Be it against Braun Strowman, Roman Reigns, Samoa Joe or all of those hosses, Lesnar was set to enter SummerSlam as the heavy favorite.
It was easy to imagine Lesnar emerging from a Fatal 4-Way match at that event with the Universal Championship still in his grasp. After all, he's only defended it once to this point. And The Beast Incarnate remaining champion until WrestleMania would set up a huge title bout at WWE's biggest PPV.
Not so fast, @BrockLesnar! @WWERomanReigns wants a MATCH with the #UniversalChampion at #SummerSlam! @HeymanHustle #RAW https://t.co/zVRzfaY1eX2017-7-11 02:01:58
If Lesnar is talking about taking some time away in December or later to train in MMA, though, WWE will want to rethink those plans.
The Beast Incarnate is already a bit absent as champ. If he's going to be prepping for a collision in the Octagon, he'll be even less of a presence on Raw.
On the other hand, if Lesnar isn't going to re-up with WWE after WrestleMania, a long title reign that ends in a farewell defeat may be the best option. How incredible will Reigns' resume look if he's the guy who retired the Undertaker and the one to send Lesnar packing?
Either way, WWE will be more inclined to keep its options open in terms of the Universal Championship.
The threat of Lesnar leaving WWE behind will get him a bigger deal.
When it's time to discuss a new contract, he has huge leverage. He can walk away from a lowball offer. In UFC, The Beast Incarnate has another place he can go that will offer him major money.
Not many WWE stars have that and none to the extent that Lesnar does.
Whether all this talk of Lesnar to UFC leads anywhere or not, the threat of him choosing the Octagon over the squared circle will be a financial boon for him. This is the combat sports equivalent of a prize NBA soon-to-be free agent who is dangling the idea of departing over everyone's heads during negotiation.
The one guarantee in all of this is that a fat paycheck is coming Lesnar's way.