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By Kendall Jenkins on 2022-11-22 11:55:00

Wrestling With the Idea of Becoming an MMA Fighter

Since their inception, MMA and professional wrestling have been inextricably linked. Professional wrestling evolved from catch wrestling, a type of submission grappling widely regarded as a precursor to modern MMA. In fact, MMA fighters still engage in catch wrestling. MMA and professional wrestling have long shared a fanbase, making it inevitable that professional wrestling superstars would eventually test their skills in MMA. The WWE, widely regarded as the world's premier professional wrestling organization, has produced several MMA fighters. The following are some of the most notable wrestlers to tried to defy the MMA odds and test themselves in the octagon.

Sean O'Haire

Sean Haire, or Sean O'Haire in the pro wrestling world, was a competent MMA fighter in his day. Haire entered the ring and cage alongside notable fighters such as Shungo Oyama, Min-soo Kim, and Eric Esch. The striker had three knockout victories and a guillotine submission win. He wasn't the most skilled MMA fighter, but he was solid, to say the least.

Phillip Brooks

Phillip Jack Brooks is better known as CM Punk, his ring name. He began wrestling in 1999 and wrestled primarily for Ring of Honor from 2002 to 2005. Brooks was to join the WWE in 2005 and remained for nearly a decade, winning two WWE Championships and three WWE World Heavyweight Championships along the way. He retired from professional wrestling in 2014 and signed with the UFC the following December. His first fight was against Mickey Gall in September 2016, and he was defeated by submission in the first round. In June 2018, he was defeated by Mike Jackson in a unanimous decision. He has since left the UFC and returned to professional wrestling with AEW.

Brock Lesnar

Brock Lesnar left WWE in 2004 with hopes of pursuing a career in the NFL, but a car accident forced him to be released by the Minnesota Vikings at the last minute. As a former NCAA Division 1 heavyweight wrestling champion, he switched to the UFC and became their heavyweight champion in four fights. Lesnar successfully defended the belt twice before suffering from diverticulitis in the latter stages of his MMA career. He returned to WWE shortly after and is still one of the biggest draws.


Dave Bautista 


Bautista is best known as Drax the Destroyer in Guardians of the Galaxy, but before he made it to Hollywood, he was a professional wrestler turned MMA fighter. Bautista only competed in the UFC once, in 2012, defeating Vince Lucero in the first round. After an incredible knockout, Bautista felt he had accomplished his goal and left the ring to the other fighters. Look at his pro wrestling resume to get a true sense of Bautista's abilities. Bautista was the OVW Heavyweight Champion, Wrestler of the Year (in 2015), WWE Champion, World Heavyweight Champion (4 times), and Royal Rumble winner.


Bobby Lashley


Bobby Lashley signed a developmental contract with WWE in November 2004 and debuted on television the following September. In 2008, he was released from his WWE contract and continued to wrestle in other promotions. He also made his MMA debut in 2008 and fought for several promotions, the most notable of which was Bellator MMA. In 2018, Lashley returned to WWE and became a two-time World Heavyweight Champion.

Alberto Del Rio

Del Rio began his pro wrestling career as Dos Caras Jr. In 2000 and started his mixed martial arts career in 2001. Over the next few years, he bounced around between wrestling promotions like AAA, CMLL, and various MMA companies. Del Rio had a professional record of 9-5 by the time he ended his fighting career in February 2010. He fought in MMA while wearing his wrestling mask, and his most famous fight, against Mirko Cro Cop at Pride Bushido 1, ended with a highlight-reel kick to the head less than a minute into the first round. 

Jack Hager

Jake Hager, formerly known by his WWE ring name Jack Swagger, transitioned to MMA after leaving WWE. Hager won the World Heavyweight Championship and the United States Championship in the WWE. Hager signed a contract with Bellator MMA as part of the heavyweight division on November 13, 2017. In 2018, Hager made his Bellator debut against JW Kiser, winning by submission in the first round. Hager gave up on his dream of becoming a top MMA star and has returned to professional wrestling with AEW.


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