The UFC debut for CM Punk went as poorly as Punk could have feared. Upon leaving WWE and the wrestling business, Punk took on the difficult challenge of trying his luck in the MMA world. Punk made the jump into the new field in his mid-30s. Everyone expected disaster and his first round tap-out loss to Mickey Gall proved the world right. The fact that Punk got in basically zero offense on Gall made him look completely outmatched with no chances at succeeding in UFC. Maybe it would work out better if he fought in smaller promotions, but Punk is nowhere near ready for the top competition in the MMA world.
Aside from the age and lack of experience, Punk had many other things working against him. The tremendous WWE star made his name due to having one of the loudest personalities to match his wrestling intelligence. Despite the great matches being frequent, Punk wasn’t a great athlete compared to his peers and had no background in fighting. There are quite a few WWE stars with better chances to thrive in the MMA world due to their experiences and strengths. We’ll likely never see them do it, but these are fifteen current WWE superstars that could do much better in UFC than CM Punk.
The athleticism and strength of Cesaro puts him at the top of the pro wrestling world. Cesaro has the physical skills to shine at anything he puts his mind to. Wrestling is lucky to have him, but the athletic ability of Cesaro could make him a very competent UFC fighter. The freaky strength of Cesaro would give him an advantage heading into fights with opponents on the same experience level as him.
14 Alberto Del Rio
Alberto Del Rio recently left WWE after a brief return and there are already rumors of him trying to transition back into MMA. Before his WWE career, Del Rio had an interesting stint in the MMA world. Del Rio had fights in Mexico, Japan, Honduras and Spain. The official record was 9-5 for Del Rio, but he won 6 of his final 7 fights. He had talent and appeared more competent in the octagon than CM Punk can even dream of.
13 Daria Berenato
WWE’s Performance Center is meant to find athletes from all over the world with different backgrounds and test them to see who can make it in the pro wrestling world. Daria Berenato signed a developmental contract with WWE after impressing in the Tough Enough reality show competition. Along with Mandy Rose, Daria is one of the rare members of the cast to excel in the Performance Center and make it to NXT. Her background in MMA gives her an edge in the presentation aspect.
12 Kofi Kingston
Kofi Kingston does not have the reputation of being a fighter and has never trained in MMA, but the guy is a freak athlete. All you have to do is remember the ridiculous feats he's shown when avoiding eliminations in the Royal Rumble match every year. Kingston’s God-given gifts could easily be transitioned into another athletic field such as MMA. The social media feeds of Kofi have shown a glimpse into his fandom of UFC during the big fights.
11 Sin Cara
The choice of Sin Cara having a better chance to reach success in MMA than CM Punk is not due to any athletic achievements like his peers. Sin Cara just happens to be one of the best members of the roster at winning fights. The masked afterthought on WWE television has delivered his greatest wins behind the scenes in real life fights with his fellow wrestlers. A recent story saw Sin Cara beat down Simon Gotch after the latter started a fight.
10 Roman Reigns
Roman Reigns is another example of a tremendous athlete currently working in WWE. The Samoan star could utilize his skills in the MMA world with the right training and work ethic. Reigns would obviously fight in a heavier weight class due to his size but his athleticism gives him an advantage in other aspects of the game. Not only is he jacked as a large dude, but Reigns has great speed and agility on his side.
9 Samoa Joe
Another Samoan wrestler that could hold his own in the octagon is Samoa Joe. NXT’s former world champion has a background in training with various forms of fighting such as mixed martial arts and judo. Joe actually was a California State Junior Judo Champion in his teenage years before committing his time to learning the craft of pro wrestling. The in-ring style of Joe in the early days of Ring of Honor showcased an MMA side to wrestling that was quite uncommon at the time.
The story of Charlotte is unlike the rest of the WWE stars on this list. Despite being the daughter of Ric Flair, she had zero intentions of becoming a wrestler. Charlotte didn’t show interest in fighting professional, real or scripted, and rather focused on team sports. Volleyball was the top choice with great success before reaching an end. WWE offered her a developmental contract and she wanted to try it with her younger brother Reid Flair before he unfortunately passed away.
7 Daniel Bryan
The retired Daniel Bryan may be a controversial choice due to his concussion issues. No one is suggesting he professionally fight, but he does have way more skill in the art than CM Punk. Bryan has spent years advancing his MMA skills in his free time in between wrestling shows. The passion of Bryan saw him train at Randy Couture’s MMA gym and learn from head trainer Neil Melanson. Bryan utilized many of the MMA aspects to his wrestling and would frequently win ROH matches via MMA elbows to his opponent’s head.
6 Baron Corbin
Baron Corbin doesn’t give the notion that he is the kind of talent that could translate to MMA, but you should never judge a book by its cover. The NFL past of Corbin is widely known as he tried his luck in football before making the move to WWE. A lesser publicized fact is Corbin also dabbled in professional boxing, and actually was a regional Golden Gloves champion. Corbin advanced to compete in the Golden Gloves national tournament but fell short.
5 Jason Jordan
As one half of American Alpha, Jason Jordan has become a standout performer in the WWE world. Fans adore the tag team and their style derived from backgrounds in amateur wrestling. Jordan achieved a great deal of success in his collegiate years with Indiana University. The incredible talent earned him a top fifteen national rank three years in a row. Jordan went 35-0 in his senior season to finish ranked second overall in the nation.
4 Chad Gable
You can’t have one member of American Alpha without the other. Chad Gable is another highly accomplished amateur wrestler. The talented young man racked up gold medals in the Pan-American Championships and Dave Schultz Memorial International. Perhaps more impressive than anything else in his career thus far, Gable qualified for the 2012 Olympics as a representative of the United States. Gable won his qualifying match before losing in the next round.
3 Dolph Ziggler
The background of Dolph Ziggler is usually not a topic of reference in his career due to his WWE character over the past few years. Ziggler was a legendary amateur wrestler in college for Kent State University. With 121 wins over his college career, Ziggler set a school record that lasted for a couple of years. The guy now known for his eccentric personality is a three-time All-Mid-American Conference champion in his weight class and no one has done that for Kent State since.
2 Jack Swagger
Jack Swagger’s amateur wrestling background is actually what caused WWE to reach out to him, but it would serve him better in UFC. Jim Ross scouted Swagger due to their connection with the University of Oklahoma. Swagger competed in the NCAA Division I championships on multiple occasions and once named an All-American for his success. The accolades prove he was a superb amateur wrestler with more potential in other fields than WWE.
1 Shinsuke Nakamura
One rising superstar in WWE that could be an interesting UFC fighter is Shinsuke Nakamura. The Japanese talent is known mostly for his inherent charisma, but the dude can fight with the best of them. Nakamura has a background in professional MMA during his time in Japan, and one trip to Brazil. With a record of 3-1, Nakamura scored all three of his victories with submission and showed impressive talent.
However, Nakamura knew he was meant to be a pro wrestler and invested completely in furthering his career. The rise to the top of New Japan led him to WWE and he is now bound to become a huge star here in the United States. Nakamura may no longer need or want MMA, but he has the skills to succeed if he wanted to dedicate his life to it. The most certain thing is he would absolutely put out a better showing in UFC than CM Punk could deliver. Hopefully it never happens as professional wrestling is a better place with Shinsuke Nakamura.
Sources: CagesideSeats, ProWrestlingNet, The Big Lead, Chicago Now, WWE, Sherdog.
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