Pro Athletes Who Tried Getting Into MMA
Due to the challenge and serious nature of MMA, it’s something of a surprise when athletes from a different sport decide to throw their hat in the ring (or octagon). Yet a surprising number do it anyway. Here are some notable names:
When MMA news sites reported that Brock Lesnar would compete in MMA, the reports were met with a mix of curiosity and ridicule. After all, how could someone with a background in ‘fake’ pro wrestling expect to compete in a real fight? However, Lesnar was a physical freak that had a stellar record in amateur wrestling. With genetics and pedigree on his side, he would defeat MMA legend Randy Couture in just his fourth fight to capture the UFC Heavyweight Championship. Lesnar would successfully defend the title twice, including avenging an early career loss to Frank Mir, before getting stopped by Cain Velasquez. It was a brief reign, but one that seriously impressed many due to Lesnar’s unorthodox entry into MMA.
Other pro wrestlers have had varying success in MMA. Bobby Lashley built up a respectable 15-2 record before returning to wrestling, Jake Hager made a successful debut in Bellator at the end of 2018, Dave Bautista went 1-0, and CM Punk… Well, the less said about Punk’s mixed martial arts career, the better.
A long standing figure of ridicule among MMA fans, Bob Sapp’s athletic career first began as an American footballer. After that occupation faltered, Sapp made the journey to Japan where he started showing up in MMA promotions like Pride and K-1. His size, strength and charisma turned him into a popular personality in Japan. But limited stamina and durability hampered Sapp’s aspirations as a mixed martial artist. Although to his credit, early in his career he defeated kickboxing legend Ernesto Hoost twice under kickboxing rules.
Other American footballers-turned-MMA competitors include Matt Mitrione, Brendan Schaub and Greg Hardy.
Even though he was seriously faded, had no other combat experience other than boxing, and was competing against a wrestling specialist, the UFC still managed to hype up James Toney’s entry into MMA. Most were skeptical he had anything other than a puncher’s chance against Randy Couture, and that proved to be the case. Couture took Toney down and had him in mount within seconds, eventually clamping in an arm triangle choke to submit the boxer. Even though he is known for his trash-talking, Toney bowed out of MMA without even a whimper.
Boxing, however, hasn’t always lost when turning to MMA rules. Ray Mercer took only nine seconds to knockout former two-time UFC Heavyweight Champion Tim Sylvia.
With the distinction as one of the great strongmen of all time behind him, five-time World’s Strongest Man Mariusz Pudzianowski made the surprising decision in 2009 to become an MMA competitor. In a career that is still going today, Pudzianowski has carved out a decent record so far with names like Pawel Nastula, Rolles Gracie Jr, and even the aforementioned Bob Sapp in the win column.