Wrestlers that went into MMA
MMA is a relatively new sport, so it was only natural that the rules and quality of fighters were going to be indistinct in its inception. The very first UFC event (which took place almost a decade before Dana White got involved with the organization) operated under chaotic terms. It featured fighters with too varied degrees, where some had backgrounds from disciplines that clearly made them unfit to tackle fighters of a more appropriate background to be able to compete in MMA.
What we learned from the first few (trial) fights which UFC provided is that weight classes are needed. Fighters who usually fight standing are unable to defend effectively against submissions, and that jiu-jitsu and wrestling are very effective backgrounds to have when fighting in MMA. If you want learn more about MMA as a sport you can visit this website.
Naturally pro-wrestlers felt encouraged to try out the sport when MMA gained popularity, and the results have been extremely mixed, with some becoming champions, while others flopped spectacularly. Here are 5 wrestlers that moved to MMA and influenced the sport greatly.
With his 7’2” (219cm) tall stature, and weighing in at almost 400lbs (180kg), the “giant” originally made the stereotypical choice to play professional basketball where he competed for the Brazilian national team at the 1988 Olympics. A decade later he joined the WWF, where he mostly fought in tag team matches.
Despite having very limited fighting experience including a crash course in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, he decided to join Pride in 2003 at 41 years of age. As you can guess he had very little success, although he did manage to win twice via the Kimura lock, where he imposed his size over 2 other lackluster fighters respectively.
Recognized as one of America’s greatest amateur wrestlers during the 80’s, and one of the greatest professional wrestlers in the 90’s, the UFC hall of fame member Severn was one of the first wrestlers that went into UFC, and as a 36-year-old!
Despite entering at his advanced age, he became one of the most decorated MMA fighters ever and broke some records along the way, including being only one out of two fighters in MMA who can brag about having over 100 wins to their names. He won more than half of his bouts thanks to submission, won 4 titles in UFC during the 90’s, and he also won a title in Elite-1 at 53 years of age!
A controversial yet very entertaining figure outside the ring, the UFC Hall of Fame and former WWF member was a pioneer, laying the foundations for both explosive grappling techniques in MMA and the prominence of loud fighting personas. He had a very respectable professional wrestling record, which shows in the fact that he won nearly all of his matches via submission in MMA.
His record in MMA doesn’t truly reflect how good of a fighter he was, with many people arguing that he should have retired sooner, after losing 12 out of his final 16 bouts. Although you can’t discredit him for always challenging the best of the best, including fights with Masaharu Funaki (twice), Bas Rutten (twice), and Dan Severn, who he won against.
Record: 5-3 (1)
“The Beast”, weighing in at 265 lbs (120kg), is famously a WWE legend, due to his entertaining in-ring performances. He became the youngest champion in WWE history at 25, and decided to pursue his dream of playing in the NFL 2 years later, which he probably would, had he not sustained serious injuries.
So, he turned his attention to MMA, where after only 3 fights in, he was offered a title shot against Randy Couture. He won the fight in the second round, as did he for his 2 next title defenses. He then went on to lose 2 in a row before retiring, although 5 years later returned to win on decision versus Nick Hunt, which was later overturned a no contest after Lesnar was tested positive for doping (which might explain his freakish physique and how he could knockout opponents despite not having a striking background) and subsequently suspended.
Record: 26-17-1 (2)
Sakuraba started out with wrestling, both as an amateur and professional, but abandoned it early to practice MMA instead. Although he fought very much like a professional wrestler in MMA, where his unorthodox style helped him gain wins against very esteemed fighters, including 4 Gracie family members (deservedly earning him the nickname “the Gracie Hunter”).
Standing at only 6′ (183cm) and weighing 187 lbs (85kg) wasn’t enough to stop the once welterweight to put it all on the line, facing Cro Cop, Wanderlei Silva (three times), Melvin Manhoef, which he albeit lost to, but he did record wins over Kevin Randleman, Ken Shamrock, Quinton Jackson and Vitor Belfort, mostly thanks to his submission skills.