UFC President Dana White earned a great deal of criticism last year for calling wrestling fake. What is real is that professional wrestling and mixed martial arts have a long history of featuring athletes able to grapple in some way, shape, or form. And what is interesting is that, while not everyone that has competed in pro wrestling has competed in MMA, many that are tied to mixed martial arts have in some way, shape or form been an active participant in a wrestling ring.
Whether you are talking about specific mixed martial arts promotions such as Strikeforce, Bellator, or UFC, publicity for MMA has grown by leaps and bounds. A number of wrestling promotions have had MMA fighters appear on their programing, including TNA, ROH and the WWE. The MMA world has been turned on its ear a number of times by athletes that have appeared in mass media. That media appeal has enabled MMA fighters to exploit their popularity in a wrestling ring as well.
As it stands right now, former WWE champion CM Punk is in the midst of pursuing an MMA career. The challenge is not only to compete, but to ultimately come out successful. Many MMA fighters and professional wrestlers have achieved success doing both, but only one stood out as being successful doing both. Here are 10 times both professional wrestling and MMA managed to crossover with one another.
10. Bart Gunn
His role where MMA is concerned wasn’t as part of the UFC or Bellator, but rather in WWE. His success in the WWE’s Brawl for All tournament really came out of nowhere. Gunn was introduced to wrestling fans as one half of The Smoking Gunns, and later on as Bodacious Bart of the New Midnight Express.
He was fairly successful as a tag team wrestler, and captured several tag titles during his time. In 1998, he competed in what was the WWE’s version of a UFC style tournament. Gunn was very successful, defeating Bob Holly (his tag team partner at the time,) “Dr. Death” Steve Williams, The Godfather and eventually Bradshaw to win the tournament.
The WWE tried to capitalize on Gunn’s success by having him face boxer Butterbean at WrestleMania 15. Gunn lost 35 seconds into the first round. The loss was costly, as Gunn’s stock plummeted and he was released that same year.
9. Sylvester Terkay
Terkay’s professional wrestling career began with training at WWE’s Ohio Valley Wrestling affiliate, and later on he was brought up to the WWE’s Smackdown brand. Terkay was using an MMA gimmick and defeated Matt Hardy in his first match. He moved to the ECW brand before being released from his contract in early 2007. After this, he went on to compete in Japan, as part of Pro Wrestling Zero1 and the Inoki Genome Federation, under the moniker of The Predator.
It was also while competing for Zero1 that Terkay fought in mixed martial arts competitions. Although his MMA career was brief, it does exist, and he has a record of three wins and one loss. One has to wonder if a future pursuit in MMA is plausible. Terkay has also competed for K-1 as well, losing both matches, one by split-decision and one by a unanimous one.
8. Bill Goldberg
Upon entering WCW following his time in the NFL, Goldberg‘s character reflected qualities that resembled an MMA fighter. For instance, he wore sparring gloves in the ring, and had a very fierce and intense nature about him. However, Goldberg’s crossover into MMA took place in 2006 as a colour commentator with the World Fighting Alliance promotion for their pay per view event. He also commentated as part of the EliteXC Company during their live events in 2007.
Goldberg’s ties to mixed martial arts are primarily based on commentating, although he did say that it was something he’d love to have pursued if he was younger, but he doesn’t necessarily see himself committing to do it. He did say “I never say never, though,” leaving a prospective window open for something to pursue in the future.
7. Tito Ortiz
The Huntington Beach Bad Boy, as he is often referred to, had thirty-one fights in his mixed martial arts career. His career record stands at eighteen wins, twelve losses and one tie. Ortiz has competed for Bellator MMA and UFC during his career. In 2006 he was arguably the biggest name in MMA.
Ortiz’s popularity in MMA has also been used in professional wrestling. At TNA’s Hard Justice pay per view in 2005, Ortiz was a special guest referee for the company’s NWA World Heavyweight championship match between Jeff Jarrett and AJ Styles. The end of the match saw Ortiz knock out Jarrett Jarrett shoved him.
A few months later, Ortiz returned to TNA and once again was in the role as special guest referee, this time in a Heavyweight title match between Jarrett and Kevin Nash. Ortiz is quite fond of his time with TNA, and their working relationship remains quite positive.
6. Ronda Rousey
One of the biggest names in UFC, and the entertainment world at large, is former UFC Welterweight Champion Ronda Rousey. It was at this past year’s WrestleMania that Rousey appeared on the biggest stage of them all, and entered a WWE ring. During an in-ring promo between The Rock, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, a war of words took place resulting in Stephanie slapping The Rock. The Rock, not being one to strike a woman, exited the ring, walked along ringside and invited Rousey to come over the barricade and join him in the ring. While The Rock wouldn’t hit a woman, UFC superstar Rousey had no problem putting McMahon in her place. Rousey hip tossed Triple H and later clutched Stephanie in an armbar, causing her to scream in agony. Rousey owned another ring she was in, regardless of whether it was an octagon or a squared circle.
5. King Mo
Muhammed Lawal is someone who capitalized on his popularity while the iron was hot. He first began competing in MMA in 2008, and has a professional record of nineteen wins, four losses and one no-contest. His amateur record saw him capture gold, silver and bronze medals for the United States between 2004 and 2007, in various competitions.
Mo’s professional wrestling career began with training in Ohio Valley Wrestling while it was affiliated with WWE. In 2012 Mo competed for both Bellator and TNA at the same time, though he worked on a limited schedule with TNA. During his time in TNA, Mo was aligned with Dixie Carter’s Team Dixie faction. He also has performed for Tommy Dreamer’s House of Hardcore promotion, taking part in a submission exchange with Chris Mordetzsky and ultimately coming out on top. Mo has since returned to MMA and competed with RIZIN Fighting Federation.
4. Bobby Lashley
Lashley’s MMA career hasn’t been as prominent as his wrestling one, but he has had some success. Bobby Lashley is a former ECW Heavyweight champion and United States Champion as part of the WWE, and a two-time TNA World Heavyweight Champion. Lashley’s MMA career began with Mixed Fighting Alliance (MFA) in 2008. He has also competed for Maximum Fighting Championship, Strikeforce, Titan Fighting Championship, Shark Fights and most notably Bellator. He has a record of fourteen wins and two losses.
What is most impressive about Lashley’s MMA career is his ability to compete fairly regularly while alternating between the octagon and the wrestling ring. One can only wonder how Lashley would fare if he chose to dedicate extensive time to MMA. What does the future hold for Lashley in MMA? At almost forty years old, he doesn’t appear to be slowing down in either of his pursuits.
3. Ken Shamrock
Shamrock is another athlete that was equally successful in WWE and UFC. His MMA career was interrupted when he competed for the WWE in between his runs with the UFC. After competing in forty-six fights, winning twenty eight, it was clear to see he was determined to succeed.
ABC News named him The World’s Most Dangerous Man, and the WWE followed suit, using that name to promote him when he performed for them between 1997 and 1999. He also appeared on the independent circuit for over a decade, such as when he refereed a match in Ring of Honor between Low Ki and Bryan Danielson (Daniel Bryan).
During his short time in TNA he captured the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. He is a former NWA World Heavyweight Champion, two-time WWE Intercontinental and Tag Team Champion, and UFC Superfight Champion. Ken Shamrock made a mark in both MMA and professional wrestling.
2. Dan “The Beast” Severn
If there has been anyone that was as talented in the octagon as he was in a wrestling ring, it was Severn. Severn is a fifth degree black belt in Judo, second degree black belt in jujitsu and a first razryad international master in Sambo. An interesting aspect of his career is that he transitioned from wrestling to mixed martial arts and back to wrestling.
He was considered a pioneer as it applies to the UFC; he began competing with them in 1994, achieving a great deal of success, while also competing for the National Wrestling Alliance. It was with the NWA that Severn captured their World Heavyweight Championship. That same year he captured the UFC Super Heavyweight Championship, making him the only one to hold a professional wrestling and MMA title at the same time. His NWA title reign lasted four years, which was the third longest reign in the title’s history.
1. Brock Lesnar
No one has made a bigger impact on both mixed martial arts and professional wrestling than Brock Lesnar. Lesnar’s amateur wrestling career made him highly sought after, and he began developing his craft while training with Ohio Valley Wrestling around the turn of the century, soon moving on to WWE.
During his time in WWE, Lesnar has captured the WWE and World Heavyweight Championship four times. In New Japan Pro Wrestling, Lesnar captured the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. His remarkable crossover accomplishment was capturing the UFC Heavyweight Championship. This accomplishment led to others making the transition from professional wrestling to MMA, and doing so successfully.
Upon returning to the WWE on a part-time basis, Lesnar has been a character of prominence in the company. One has to wonder if another championship remains in his future, in either MMA or professional wrestling.