A little more than a week ago, UFC held its UFC 199 pay-per-view. The big story of the night was not last-minute fill in Michael Bisping defeating Luke Rockhold in the main event to win his first UFC title. Rather, it was the announced return of current WWE Superstar Brock Lesnar, where he will fight Mark Hunt at the company's marquee UFC 200 pay-per-view in July, whose card is looking to be the biggest mixed martial arts card in the sport's modern history.
This doesn't mean that Lesnar has left WWE, but that he would be competing on what the company stated would be a "one-off" bout, that he negotiated for when he was deciding between re-signing with WWE in March 2015 or returning to the octagon. He last competed in the UFC in 2011 and was a former UFC Heavyweight Champion.
Lesnar coming back to UFC is going to potentially impact how the company and WWE will interact with one another, opening the door to more similar deals like this.
This exchange of talent is a call back to a bygone era in professional wrestling, where there was no one wrestling company that ruled over all.
Before WWE monopolized the wrestling industry for the better part of three decades, wrestling companies all over the world would make deals similar to this Lesnar one, like two sports teams trading players, only in wrestling, more often than not, the wrestlers would come back after their stint in the second company.
This move by Brock Lesnar is going to have ripple effects down the line for both companies.
Firstly, for those uneducated in the way the business of professional wrestling (or "sports entertainment" as WWE continues to push its own brand of vernacular to fans in order to have a bigger mainstream effect), WWE President Vince McMahon hates and almost blocks his wrestlers from competing in other promotions.
This isn't news to wrestling historians as this has been Vince's way of conducting business for many decades. But Lesnar is by far the biggest star in the WWE to ever do something like this.
Now some people are just going to write this off as a one-time thing since this is the biggest pay-per-view in UFC history.
But, by allowing Lesnar to compete in the UFC, Vince McMahon has thrown the first strike to UFC president Dana White as WWE continues to negotiate the possibility of incorporating one its biggest stars to not just appear at WWE, but be a part of a big angle: Ronda Rousey.
Rousey, who has been very vocal about her fanaticism of WWE, has already made appearances at WWE's two biggest pay-per-views, SummerSlam in 2014 and WrestleMania 2015. The 2015 appearances was by far the more notable ones as she not only got into the ring, but got into a physical altercation, preplanned mind you, with Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon and wrestler Triple H, who has now fully transitioned into a business role with the company but still wrestles on occasion.
This opened the rumor floodgates of the possibility of Rousey being incorporated into a storyline where the dream scenario for WWE, albeit a farfetched one at the time, would be to sign Rousey into the company.
WWE was trying to have Rousey appear at WrestleMania 32 at AT&T Stadium (home of the Dallas Cowboys) back in April, but were unsuccessful. It did not help Rousey's popularity that she lost the UFC Women's Bantamweight Championship in November of 2015, but she still remains one of the company's biggest stars and WWE is still very interested in her reappearance.
There are rumblings within the company of the possibility of having Ronda compete in a match at WrestleMania 33 in 2017 in Orlando, Florida, most likely against Stephanie McMahon.
It's not hard to believe why WWE's top priority in UFC is Rousey: She brings an incredible amount of mainstream media attention wherever she goes. WWE has been trying for the past year to reinvigorate their failing women's wrestling division, rebranding their title from the Divas Championship to the Women's Championship.
Having a legitimate fighter in Rousey will bring legitimacy to the women of WWE, who have been ridiculed for many years of mostly comprising of models being hired more so for their looks than their athletic ability.
The move also follows a historical trend within the company of bringing MMA stars to compete for the company, such as Ken Shamrock and Dan Severn, so having Rousey in the fold is unsurprising to say the least.
There is also the possibility that the WWE would use Lesnar's appearance in the UFC to open up doors to have UFC Featherweight Champion Conor McGregor also appear in the company in some shape or form. When he retired for a very brief time a couple months ago, WWE hinted of a McGregor-WWE union.
Now the one thing to follow in this Lesnar-UFC story is the MMA career arc of former WWE wrestler CM Punk, who signed with UFC in late 2014 after an extremely tumultuous and rocky relationship with WWE forced his hand and made him retire.
WWE is coming off of a period that saw many of its top stars, such as John Cena and Randy Orton, get injured at roughly the same time in the fall and winter of 2015. As WWE is prepared to make their Thursday night show SmackDown into one with as much importance as their Monday Night Raw show, they need to get as many stars on both shows as they can.
I know people who are knowledgeable about what is going on behind the scenes and I have been told there are people who are under the impression that somewhere down the road, WWE's relationship with the UFC could lead to WWE mending its relationship with Punk and possibly making a deal for a return to the squared circle.
While Dana White insists that his company is not like the WWE, the similarities are too strong to ignore. Both entities value entertainment and attracting as many fans to the product as possible.
Many of its biggest stars, such as Rousey, McGregor, and others like Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier, sometimes even play the role of heel (villain) or face (hero) as a way to showcase their personalities and engage in verbal fisticuffs against their opponents, much to the delight of fans as it makes pay-per-view fights that much more attractive.
The crossover appeal between UFC and WWE is everlasting between its fans and employees. For WWE, it doesn't just stop with Lesnar and Punk competing in UFC. Wrestling legends such as The Undertaker and Kurt Angle have publicly been at MMA events and there are many MMA fans that have crossed into professional wrestling fandom and vice versa.
Lesnar's UFC return solidifies the UFC-WWE connection. Whether Brock Lesnar walks out of UFC 200, the victor or not, WWE already has the spoils.