The worst-kept secret in pro wrestling in recent months was officially confirmed on Monday night, when former ECW champion Bobby Lashley made his return to WWE.
Lashley appeared on the post-WrestleMania 34 edition of Monday Night Raw, attacking rising star Elias to the delight of the passionate New Orleans crowd.
However, questions have inevitably been raised about what this means for the MMA career of the 41-year-old, who most recently fought in a winning effort against Josh Appelt at Bellator 162 in October 2016.
Lashley had continued to juggle his fighting career with pro wrestling, spending time in 2009-2010 with Impact Wrestling, before returning to the promotion in 2014, where he remained until his release in January of this year.
Bellator officials reportedly confirmed on Tuesday that the 15-2 heavyweight remains under contract with the organisation, prompting speculation that the four-time All American had secured a similar hybrid deal to that of Brock Lesnar, whose new WWE contract purportedly allows him to compete in the UFC, at least for one fight.
According to veteran pro wrestling and MMA journalist Dave Meltzer, however, Lashley is ‘done’ with Bellator, having turned down the opportunity to feature as an alternate in their currently ongoing Bellator Heavyweight World Grand Prix Tournament, which will crown the promotion’s first heavyweight champion since May 2016, when the title was vacated by Vitaly Minakov.
Yes he's done. He was offered a spot as an alternate in their heavyweight tournament and turned it down. https://t.co/RsECcmLhzD
— Dave Meltzer (@davemeltzerWON) April 10, 2018
Given Lashley’s advancing years, it would not be a surprise to see his WWE return – the first time he’s appeared in the organisation for a decade – quietly mark the end of his 17-fight MMA career.