The trend of MMA fighters exchanging their gloves for professional wrestling tights seems to be on the mind of several top fighters lately, but the history of swapping professions doesn’t always work as planned. There have been several fighters who have made this swap with mixed results.
Talk of MMA fighters becoming professional wrestlers has seen an increase, shown recently by Frank Mir’s comment. After Mir’s recent failure to recapture the UFC Heavyweight Championship, he was interviewed by The Chronicle Journal and gave the impression that he might jump ship when he responded to the question if he would join a wrestling company with, “Not opposed to the idea.”
Roy Nelson, another UFC heavyweight fighter, made similar comments a few weeks back. When interviewed by mmjunkie.com, Nelson said, “I don’t know why I couldn’t do it. What’s wrong with being a two-sport athlete?”
These two heavyweights wouldn’t be the first to crossover into professional wrestling as Muhammed Lawal, who’s currently suspended until September for a positive drug test, recently signed a deal with MMA promotion Bellator Fighting Championships and professional wrestling promotion Total Nonstop Action (TNA). To be under contract from two different fields is a first. What, if anything, comes of this freshly inked deal still remains to be seen and may affect the choice other athletes make.
Two of the top fighters in the UFC’s history and current inductees into the UFC Hall of Fame (HOF) were the first bold enough to attempt the switch. Dan Severn and Ken Shamrock were the originals and found moderate success, but it was their time in MMA that would garner them the most attention.
Shamrock would fight two years for the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), winning two different titles before leaving. He would wrestle again in TNA, winning the NWA Heavyweight Championship on the company’s first show, and held it for several months before returning to MMA. The time away was too much for Shamrock once he returned, though. Since returning in 2000, he has only won five of his last 15 fights.
Severn would find even less success. Before the creation of TNA, Severn would capture and defend the NWA Heavyweight Championship for four straight years. It remains the longest reign in the last 20 years and fourth longest reign in the championships history, but Severn was never a star attraction. He would eventually forfeit the championship after it was made exclusive to TNA and he would not defend it for the upcoming promotion. Severn would also compete for a short time in the WWE, but found no success before leaving. He continues to fight in MMA, maintaining a stellar record of 101-19-7 and has stated he is ready to retire at the end of 2012.
Tito Ortiz, who will be soon to be inducted into the UFC HOF, worked several times for TNA in a referee role, but never laced up his wrestling boots for an actual fight. His appearances alone still helped the company attract new viewers.
Then there is Brock Lesnar, who went from the WWE to the UFC and back again to the WWE. He undoubtedly earned the most success in both MMA and professional wrestling, winning the top championship in both companies on more than one occasion. His success, and certainly the amount of money he makes, is why many in the MMA world may want switch professions.
MMA and professional wrestling are two worlds apart. Though one goal they both share is to put on a product which makes lots of money and the athletes notice. If a MMA fighter wants the chance to break into professional wrestling, there is a company out there that’s willing to at least hear them out. Over the next few years, don’t be surprised to hear rumors of a MMA star looking to leave the sport for a run in professional wrestling.