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.
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.
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.
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.
6 Ronda Rousey
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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