No one can really dispute the fact that wrestlers are some seriously hardcore guys. It’s a tough business, the training, the gruelling schedules – it’s enough to beat down even the toughest of competitors. Although, having said all that, there are a group of people who think otherwise. Wrestling naysayers don’t give professional wrestling the time of day. It’s scripted, and is, for all intents and purposes, fake. That’s why a lot people who partake in real combat sports, such as boxing and MMA, often ridicule wrestlers. They deem them to basically be actors. Those in MMA are handing out real beatings and are getting pummelled, whereas those in the ring just act like they’re doing so. Of course, there’s a lot more to wrestling than just acting and rehearsing a script as if you’re preparing for a major theatrical performance and are putting on a show. But MMA competitors don’t buy it. A lot of them are constantly taking jibes at wrestlers, saying they wouldn’t last two minutes in their world. It’s caused some wrestlers over the years to trade in the ring for the octagon, transition from the so-called “fake” world of wrestling, and try their hand at some real combat.
These 15 wrestlers are all individuals who have a love for all-things MMA, or have at least tried it or practiced it in a professional capacity. Some have expressed a desire to compete and have legitimately pursued a career in MMA, and some have taken to the octagon and have had decent careers. Whatever people’s thoughts on wrestling may be, no one can say any longer that these 15 individuals aren’t hardass dudes. These guys are 15 wrestlers who have pursued MMA, and are seriously tough and truly hardcore.
15 Nathan Jones
This guy’s just a beast, a mass monster, a hard man; to be honest, any adjective used to describe Nathan Jones doesn’t really do him justice. Monsters do walk the earth, and Nathan’s a prime example. Not only is he a menacing looking figure, he’s also one of the baddest men on the planet. Cross him at your peril, and many have done just that, and have squared off against him in the octagon, and have come face to face with him in the ring.
Born in Australia, as a teenager, Nathan became one of the most wanted men in Australia. He was on the run after pulling off eight armed robberies, but the law eventually caught up with him and he was incarcerated. In prison he began lifting weights, developed a killer physique, became freakishly strong, and ultimately became the National Powerlifting Champion of Australia. This led to a strongman career, during which, just for the hell of it, he pursued MMA, only having one fight which he lost. After that, another switch flipped in his mind, and he decided to try and make it as a wrestler. He wrestled full-time for around three years, which included a stint with WWE, before wrestling sporadically thereafter, and eventually calling it quits. But being 6 ft. 11 in. and weighing in at 350 lbs, has its advantages, not just in the fighting world. Nathan’s had a decent career as an actor, and has travelled around the world, working in different film industries, earning his corn as the massive, menacing, imposing figure that terrorizes people, this time onscreen. I’m sure you’ll all agree, Nathan’s had quite a life.
14 Kid Kash
While with Paul Heyman’s company at ECW, Kid Kash was a pretty big deal. He acquired a substantial fan following, but his career didn’t really kick on when he went to TNA, WWE and various other independent promotions around the globe. It’s a shame, because all you Kid Kash fans would be the first to say he never really realized or fulfilled his potential in the ring.
Perhaps that’s why he decided to try his hand in another arena, doing something different. This happened, he decided to try out MMA, when he was still finding his feet on the independent circuit. He was wrestling in Europe with various promotions, but his wrestling career had pretty much stalled by that point. So, he gave a good go of things in the octagon. When I say a good go of things, I mean he had one pro fight before calling it quits. He lost his one and only pro fight in the opening round, losing in 39 seconds, but even that was enough for him to gain a reputation as a dirty fighter. Not a great calling in MMA, and now he’s retired from wrestling too, so he's pretty much in the wilderness as far as we know.
13 Ikuhisa Minowa
Fighting is what Ikuhisa Minowa is all about, it’s all he’s known pretty much throughout his entire life. His name might not ring a bell to a lot of people, because he mainly fights in his home nation of Japan and around the rest of Asia, but why should he venture elsewhere? He’s a megastar in his native Japan, a major celebrity. That’s because of his accomplishments, and his longevity. He’s been around fighting in MMA events for over two decades, long before the sport started getting all the fans and popularity it’s enjoying today. Ikuhisa has fought a remarkable 110 times, and has won 62 of his fights, which is more than a decent record.
In 2010, Ikuhisa turned his attention to wrestling. Again, he chose to stay in Japan, has since been wrestling with Japanese promotions. His wrestling career’s still in its infancy, but regardless of the wrestling record he’s put together, he’ll always be known, first and foremost, as an MMA fighter, and a damn good one at that.
12 Sylvester Terkay
Sylvester Terkay’s a pretty big dude and cuts a menacing figure in the ring. At 6 ft. 6 and weighing in at over 320 lbs, cross Sylvester at your peril. Plenty did so while he was in the wrestling business, and got their just desserts.
Sylvester’s always been into wrestling. Right back to his college days, he was a pretty decent amateur wrestler, and even wrestled with the likes of Kurt Angle. After college, the natural progression was to turn pro, make a go of things on the pro circuit, and that’s exactly what he did. He got a contract with WWE while he was still in the training phase of his pro career, and after a stint with the world’s biggest wrestling promotion, he travelled around the world, trying his luck with different companies.
He even once, when his wrestling career was in its infancy, tried his hand at MMA. Look at Sylvester and he just looks like an MMA fighter. He didn’t fair too badly in the octagon either. He was the major draw card on New Year’s Eve, the night of his first fight, and he didn’t disappoint. He won in just 13 seconds, and then went on to continue his MMA career in Asia, before calling time on his brief career with a record of three wins and one loss, to focus on his passion, wrestling.
11 Giant Silva
Paulo César da Silva, aka Giant Silva, is another fighting machine, another guy who just looks the part and is built to go toe to toe with others, be it in a wrestling ring or in the octagon. The guy’s even had a go at basketball, but it turned out wrestling was his calling.
Giant Silva was well into his wrestling career before he decided to pursue MMA. He was wrestling in Japan at the time, a place where MMA was already a much-loved sport in 2003, before it became hugely popular around the rest of the world. Giant Silva had what can only be described as a crash course in Brazilian jiu-jitsu before stepping into the octagon. He had spells where he looked like quite an accomplished fighter, but in the end, his inexperience showed and his brief, yet still pretty exciting, MMA career just fizzled out, and he went back to what he did best, wrestling.
10 Mike Polchlopek
Mike Polchlopek, who wrestled under the name Bart Gunn, has been out of the limelight for quite some time now, having retired over a decade ago and deciding not to stay involved with the business. He had a trade, a skillset he could fall back on, and now works as an electrician. But for years, Bart Gunn was a much-loved character in wrestling. He had his own unique style, and he was a decent performer in the ring too. But he chose to call time on his career in 2004, after he finished a stint wrestling in Japan. But he obviously made an impression in Japan, because they were eager to have him back, this time around as an MMA fighter. His MMA career got off and running in the best possible fashion. However, a few months later, he lost, and that was that. Everyone thought Mike would give MMA a bit more of a go, but evidently, he’d had enough, and just wanted to put his fighting days behind him and work a more conventional, safer job.
9 Ken Shamrock
You’ve got to be seriously tough to have survived and gotten through some of the trials and tribulations that have hit Ken Shamrock over the years. I say over the years, and by that I mean right from his childhood. Ken had a seriously tough upbringing, and endured plenty of harrowing moments that have mentally left their scars. But he’s a fighter, got through it all, and then went on to fight in another capacity. He got into wrestling in the early 90s, and went on have a pretty decent amount of success. Ken spent quite a long time in the wrestling industry too, and retired in 2013. But, something that’s pretty remarkable, is that right throughout his wrestling career, he was also an MMA fighter, juggling an MMA career with his wrestling career. When I say career, I mean career, and not just one or two fights. He’s fought 47 times, winning 28 of his matches. Due to his fighting prowess, he’s even been labelled as being the World’s Most Dangerous Man by ABC News, and those who have seen him fight various battles throughout his life would find it hard to disagree.
8 Kurt Angle
When you’re talking about wrestling greats, Kurt Angle’s got to be at the top of the list. He’s one of only a handful of guys in the wrestling industry who has a pretty awesome amateur pedigree. The guy was just ridiculous as an amateur, winning gold for his country at the Atlanta Olympic Games, and a ton of other accolades. The big money of pro wrestling, lucrative contracts with the likes of WWE, was just something he couldn’t say no to, and we’re all really glad he made the transition to the pro scene, because if he didn’t, we wouldn’t have been able to see a legend at work.
Being one of the greatest amateur wrestlers of all time, Kurt Angle knows his stuff. He knows a lot of MMA, and has brought some of his moves into the wrestling ring from time to time. Kurt’s passionate about MMA, and it’s pretty amazing he hasn’t yet managed to get into the octagon. He’s spoken about how he’s pursued an MMA career in the past, and was once close to signing for the UFC, but unfortunately nothing materialized. He’s getting on a bit now, but his love for MMA hasn’t died down, he’s still in terrific shape, so we can only cross our fingers and hope that we get to see Kurt in the octagon at some point in the future.
7 The Undertaker
Here’s another all-time wrestling great, someone who recently called time on his illustrious wrestling career. The Phenom, The Undertaker, Mark Calaway, is another guy whose name is synonymous with wrestling. He’s been around for years and gave it his all, which is perhaps why he never felt the need, or had any serious desire to venture away from the industry and give MMA a try. Calaway’s another guy, just like Angle, who has a serious passion for MMA, and has pursued it to an extent, without ever turning pro and stepping into the octagon. But Calaway’s gone one better than Angle. He’s actually trained in MMA. He hasn’t just trained in MMA; he’s earned a blackbelt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, under the watchful eyes of his trainer Rolles Gracie. What’s even more remarkable, is that he earned his blackbelt in just 19 months – those of you who know your martial arts will know that that’s just ridiculous!
Calaway’s just an MMA nut. If there’s a big event, you can bet he’ll be there in the front row. He hangs out with a lot of MMA fighters, still trains, and just loves everything about the industry. The only thing that’s missing, something we’d love to see but is unlikely to happen, is a pro MMA record!
6 Bob Sapp
Bob Sapp’s one seriously big dude, another person on this list who was just made to fight. But, being big doesn’t necessarily equate to success; it can get you through the door and get you opportunities, but then you’ve got to work hard to make it happen, and it doesn’t always work out, as Bob Sapp found out during his career.
Bob has used his size and intimidating presence to his advantage. He’s had plenty of opportunities to explore different ventures, and has tried his hand at acting, American football, kickboxing, wrestling, and as a mixed martial artist.
His wrestling career started in 2001, and he’s been wrestling on and off ever since. During this time, he’s also partaken in kickboxing competitions, and has put together an MMA record. Most of his fighting exploits have been in Japan, a country where he’s revered and remains a megastar. Today, he travels the world, working for different promotions, doing a little bit of one thing here, a little bit of another there.
5 Bobby Lashley
Bobby Lashley won amateur wrestling championships for fun, before enlisting in the army. But he didn’t let up on his training, and he continued to wrestle, and after his plans to wrestle at the Olympics fell through, he turned his attention to the professional ranks. WWE signed him up right away, and he went on to have a pretty decent career, one that’s still very much ongoing.
In 2008, while still a very active part of the wrestling industry, Lashley made the decision to give MMA a go, and it’s a decision plenty of people are glad he made. Over the years since his debut, he’s put together a pretty impressive record in the octagon. A 15-2 win/loss record is certainly something to boast about, and boy has Lashley done just that. He’s one of the best fighters on this list, and what’s scary for his opponents, is that he still has many more years at the top.
Today, Batista has found success as an actor, and has made great strides in the movie industry since turning his attention away from fighting, which wasn’t easy to do seeing as how he’s been fighting in one way or another for pretty much his whole life.
All wrestling fans, new and old, have heard of Batista. The guy’s just a beast, plain and simple. When he stepped into the ring, and people saw him grow, get bigger and bigger over the years, he captured their imaginations, especially since he could also wrestle. It was his freaky bodybuilder physique that got him noticed, and combined with his wrestling ability, it made for one pretty awesome package. He was the major drawcard when he was in the wrestling business, and it was the same when he gave MMA a go too. He didn’t just get into MMA on a whim. He trained, he's actually a purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and it took a lot of patience, and many years of negotiations, before he finally made his debut. One fight, one win, and that was that for Batista. He’d been there, done it, and that’s when he shifted his attention to movies, something that today looks like it's paying off.
3 Alberto Del Rio
It was pretty much inevitable that Alberto Del Rio was going to become a professional wrestler. He has wrestling in his blood, since he's descended from some wrestling greats, so it was always going to be the case that he was going to follow in their footsteps. After a few years amateur wrestling, he joined the pros in 2000, and as expected, has gone on to have an illustrious career. Wherever he wrestles today, he’s still a firm fan favorite, still draws in the crowds, and he’ll probably still be doing so for many years to come.
Around a year after making his professional wrestling debut, Del Rio decided to give MMA a try. People thought it was a bizarre decision at the time, because MMA wasn’t really a big deal in those days. But it’s something he wanted to do, and pursued an MMA career over the next nine years. Nine wins and five losses later, he called time on his MMA career in order to focus on wrestling. But he’s still passionate about MMA, and is still involved in the industry. Last year he was given the title of President of the MMA promotion Combate Americas, so he continues to have a major influence in both the wrestling and MMA industries.
2 CM Punk
CM Punk is one guy who creates headlines wherever he goes. He’s known for being a straight-talker, letting people know how he feels and for not taking any BS. That meant he enjoyed a pretty tumultuous time with WWE, with Vince McMahon, Triple H, and the powers that be at the helm, calling the shots. You can pretty much guarantee that every week something new was going to come up, some fresh controversy was going to be sparked, involving Punk. Politics and sour relations didn’t stop him from becoming one of the greatest wrestlers though; but eventually everything that was going on between him and the promotion beat him down, and he ended up leaving the wrestling business for good. He was looking for a new challenge, and that presented itself when Dana White offered him a contract. There was an unbelievable amount of hype surrounding his much-anticipated debut, but Punk knew how to keep the fans waiting. Due to one reason or other, the fight kept getting delayed, but it eventually took place at UFC 203. He was obliterated, he lost in the first round, and there’s been no news of Punk returning to the octagon. His career’s currently in limbo.
1 Brock Lesnar
I said CM Punk creates headlines whatever he does, wherever he goes, and someone else who creates a similar stir is Brock Lesnar. Just like Batista, Brock Lesnar’s someone who’s known for being a beast. The guy’s absolutely massive, built like no one else in the wrestling business, and he’s just gotten bigger and bigger over the years. That was initially why people loved to watch him, because of the spectacle created when someone of Brock’s size does what he does in the ring. People found it awe-inspiring. But Brock isn’t just a big bulky beast. He’s demonstrated that he’s a damn good wrestler, and damn good fighter full stop, which we got to see when he embarked on an MMA career. He fought nine times in the octagon, before retiring. Today, he’s all about making smart choices, not “caveman decisions” as he puts it. He’s one of the best paid wrestlers with WWE, doesn’t work full-time, and is enjoying life with his family; it’s all come together for Brock Lesnar.