More and more today, we are starting to see wrestlers make the jump to MMA. Before Lesnar made headlines with the UFC, so many other former pro wrestlers had also made the jump previously, and as you can imagine, their careers were very short lived, with most of them lasting no longer than one fight.
Today, with so much more knowledge and training at your disposal, MMA careers can now last longer than one fight; Brock Lesnar and Bobby Lashley are a couple of wrestlers that can agree to this. It’ll be interesting to see how the WWE’s latest ex-employee CM Punk does on the MMA stage. He’s certainly created a big buzz, so now it’s time to back that up. Punk believes that despite his injuries, he will fight in 2016. You can bet wrestling fans will be tuning in!
Not all transitions went as smoothly or made headlines like these guys, though. For some, it ended in utter embarrassment while others actually held a pretty decent record. Let’s get to this list. Here are 15 wrestlers you won’t believe fought in MMA Enjoy!
15) Shinsuke Nakamura (3-1-1)
At the age of 36, the legend of Nakamura is bringing his strong style to North America. Making his debut at NXT TakeOver: Dallas, fans just can’t seem to get enough of the former IWGP Heavyweight Champion, a main roster call up certainly won’t take too long with this guy. Fans just want to know more about Nakamura, well, here’s one thing you probably never knew: Shinsuke actually made his MMA debut back in December of 2002. The very same year, Nakamura made his debut with New Japan under the alias of The Super Rookie. In his first MMA match, Nakamura was submitted by Daniel Gracie. He would later bounce back with 3 victories and one no contest, ending his MMA career in May of 2004 with a 3-1-1 record. Seems like this guy can just do it all!
14) Jushin Thunder Liger (0-1)
Yes, even the masked man himself Jushin Thunder Liger, had a brief MMA career (and when I say brief, I mean one match). Liger was booked as a replacement opponent against Minoru Suzuki, and Liger was actually allowed to compete in a mask. As you might imagine, Liger was easily defeated after being choked out via rear naked choke just under 2 minutes into the first round. Following the match in 2002, Jushin continued his career with New Japan Pro Wrestling.
13) Bam Bam Bigelow (0-1)
The late great Bam Bam Bigelow was one of the most feared wrestlers inside of a WWE ring, but as for an MMA ring, well not so much. In 1996, Bigelow signed a deal to fight Kimo Leopoldo at a U-Japan event. Despite Bigelow’s size, Kimo was quite the fighter with a lot of experience. The fight was a disaster for Bigelow who got destroyed from start to finish. The match only lasted 2:15 before Bigelow was submitted via rear naked choke. According to sources, the match was simply a “money grab” for Bigelow and nothing else.
12) Bobby Lashley (14-2)
Bobby is one of the more known pro wrestlers that took an interest in MMA. Like Brock, Lashley was an amateur wrestler growing up. Following in the footsteps of Lesnar, Bobby took a step back from the world of pro wrestling and entered the octagon signing a deal with Bellator MMA. Lashley was very impressive in his debut, beating Joshua Franklin in 41 seconds. He would go on to impress the MMA world by winning his first 5 bouts. In his 6th, however, Bobby would lose via knockout and announce his retirement following the match. The TNA star would once again announce his return in 2011, taking on several fights. His last fight was a rematch on November 6th, 2015 defeating James Thompson in 54 seconds, avenging his second loss. Lashley holds an impressive record of 14-2.
11) Nathan Jones (0-1)
Like his WWE career, Nathan’s MMA journey was brief and painful. Jones lost his only bout after being submitted in just over 2 minutes of the first round. Following his failed stint in 1997, Jones gave the world of pro wrestling a try. His WWE career was a disaster, despite being given the opportunity to work with some of the best in the business including the likes of The Undertaker, Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar. Ultimately, Jones quit the company in 2006 claiming the WWE’s travel schedule was too rigorous. Don’t feel too bad however, Nathan is enjoying a successful career as an actor today.
10) Nick Mitchell (0-1)
Yup, that’s right; even a former Spirit Squad member gave MMA a try. Following his release from the WWE, Nick Mitchell changed career paths and began training to be an MMA fighter. In his debut, Nick was defeated in the second round via TKO. This would be Mitchell’s only bout, as he would end up pulling out his next bout due to injury. Don’t feel too bad for the guy though, he dated Torrie Wilson at one point.
9) Taka Michinoku (0-1)
Who can forget the master of the Michinoku driver? Yes, even Taka tried his luck in MMA, only to lose via submission in 1997. His loss would actually be vital in cementing his legacy in North America, and Taka would make his WWE debut months after his first and only MMA bout. After a 4 year run with the company, Taka would head back home to Japan. At the age of 42, Michinoku is still active with New Japan Pro Wrestling.
8) Kid Kash (0-1)
The 46 year old was known to be quite the journeyman throughout his long wrestling career, taking his talents all over the world. Kash made his debut in 1996 wrestling for ECW. He would later make pit-stops at every major wrestling company which included, WCW, TNA and the WWE. With all these experiences under his belt, Kash decided it wasn’t enough. The Nashville resident would further his experience by pursuing an MMA career in 2008. His run was short lived and restricted to one match which he lost due to decision.
7) Sean O’Haire (4-2)
The world of pro wrestling was saddened to find out about the death of Sean O’Haire on September 9th, 2014. Asides from pro wrestling, O’Haire had a passion for combat sports. He began as a kickboxer in 2004, then Sean later made the transfer to MMA. O’Haire finished with a 4-2 record, although he did have other fight experiences which took place in smaller venues. After a brutal 29 second TKO loss, O’Haire would bounce back wining 4 out of his next 5 fights. Sean fought his last bout in December of 2007.
6) Dan Severn (101-19-7)
Dan Severn was one of the first ever MMA stars to make the jump from MMA to the world of sports and entertainment. Severn is one of the most experienced MMA fighters in the world, holding a tremendous 127 fight record of 101-19-7. In 2013, Dan announced his retirement from MMA only to return just recently announcing a match against Tank Abbot at the age of 57. The match was booked for March 20th, but unfortunately the bout would be cancelled after Abbot sustained an injury during training. Despite the cancellation, Severn is keen on continuing his career.
5) Steve Williams aka Dr. Death (0-1)
Add yet another 0-1 record to a former wrestler’s MMA career. The late Steve Williams made an attempt at an MMA career after leaving the pro wrestling business, but his career lasted only 22 seconds after he was knocked out in a K-1 fight against Alexey Ignashov. Following the loss, Dr. Death returned to the wrestling business for a couple of years, and in 2009 Williams announced his official retirement. Sadly, in December of 2009, Williams passed away losing a long battle to throat cancer.
4) Rodney Mack (1-0)
Like countless other former WWE superstars, the Rodney Mack experiment was a complete fail. After two failed stints with the company, Mack was fired for good along with his real life wife, Jazz. As of 2015, the 45 year old was still performing independently for various wrestling promotions. In 2008, Mack’s career took a slight turn when he made his MMA debut. Rodney picked up the victory after 21 seconds via ground-and-pound. This would be his only official match.
3) Bart Gunn (1-1)
Poor Bart Gunn, who is predominantly remembered for being knocked out by Butterbean in 35 seconds. Yikes. The incident all began with the WWE hosting a Brawl For All tournament. Yes, that’s right, the WWE thought it was a good idea to promote boxing on a wrestling program… After winning the tournament, Gunn was set up for his clash against Butterbean at WrestleMania XV. Following his retirement from pro wrestling, Bart took a shot at MMA. Gunn was successful in his first fight winning via TKO in round 1. He would go on to lose his second and final fight via decision.
2) Batista (1-0)
Following his WWE release in 2010, Batista announced he would be pursuing an MMA career. Dave would join a pretty prestigious camp with Cesar Gracie. Initially, Batista was set to take on Rashid Evans (not Rashad Evans, that’s just unfair), but the fight was later changed to Batista taking on MMA veteran Vince Lucero. The fight ended with a first round TKO for The Animal at the 4:05 mark. This would end up being Batista’s only bout as he would later return to the WWE in 2013 and pick up some high profile movie roles.
1) Alberto Del Rio (9-5)
Yup, that weird looking masked man you see in the picture above is in fact, Alberto Del Rio during his MMA says. Alberto admitted in several interviews that he had been brawling his entire life. While making a name for himself on the wrestling scene, Del Rio also took part in MMA. His 14 fight career lasted almost a decade from his first fight; a 20 second win in August of 2001, to his final fight on February 27th, 2010, a TKO loss in the second round. At the age of 38 and back in the WWE, I can bet Del Rio’s MMA days are done. Then again, you never know!