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WrestleMania 28 PPV buys set major WWE record, while Brock Lesnar-less UFC PPVs struggle

Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

WrestleMania 28 reportedly set an all-time World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) pay-per-view (PPV) record on April 1, 2012, from Sun Life Stadium in Miami, Fla., tallying an estimated 1.3 million buys "with global sales in excess of $67 million." passed along a report earlier this afternoon, which breaks the 1.25 million PPV high-water mark that was set way back in 2007 when John Cena defeated Shawn Michaels to retain the WWE championship.

The success of WrestleMania 28 can be attributed to many things, particularly the celebrated return of "The Rock," who emerged from a seven-year, self-imposed hiatus to defeat the aforementioned Cena in the main event of the evening. However, it was the rumored return of another former superstar, Brock Lesnar, which may have pushed the final numbers over the edge.

The former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight champion didn't appear on the PPV; however he was "secretly" in the building backstage to take in all the action. Lesnar actually returned the following evening at Monday Night "RAW," ending the show with an "F-5" of Cena just before the credits rolled. Then, to build even more heat, a confrontation between Lesnar and Cena the following week erupted into an all-out brawl after a face slap (watch the video here).

For years, Lesnar was a UFC box office Goliath, attracting throngs of fans, whether it was from his earlier "professional" wrestling days, mixed martial arts (MMA) exploits or otherwise. UFC President Dana White always insisted that Georges St. Pierre was the true UFC PPV king; however, Lesnar's presence always seemed to be a winning formula for financial success.

In fact, Lesnar headlined UFC 100 opposite Frank Mir back in 2009, which remains the promotion's most successful event ever with 1.6 million estimated PPV buys. He also holds another top all-time spot (1.01 PPV buys) for his UFC 91 fight against Randy Couture.

More recently, Lesnar's farewell fight against Alistair Overeem at UFC 141 late last year generated a respectable 750,000 PPV buys, while his loss to Cain Velasquez in Oct. 2010 was the biggest box office success since the loss to "The Reem."

In short, if Lesnar isn't, or wasn't involved, the PPV numbers, for the most part, struggled in comparison.

With the UFC PPV numbers in a Lesnar-less funk, and the WWE on a Lesnar-fueled upswing, one has to wonder how much the promotion's success in recent years truly was built on his "blood, sweat and tears." Talk all you want about "saturation" and "injuries" and fight card "mishaps," but one common thread is always present when it comes to big money-making UFC events.

Lesnar has proven time and again that he is a huge draw, regardless of where he plies his trade. It's undeniable. And make no mistake, his appearance at Wrestlemania 29 next year in New Jersey will likely set another WWE record.

Meanwhile, UFC events will struggle to sniff the half-million mark. The good news is major main events that feature Jon Jones vs. Rashad Evans at UFC 145 and Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen at UFC 147 loom on the horizon.

Can one, or both, fill the huge PPV shoes that Lesnar once filled? Can anyone, for that matter?

It's clearly not St. Pierre.

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