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10 WWE Superstars Who Competed In MMA

UFC-styled fights and the simulated combat of professional wrestling are one in the same...

Professional wrestling and MMA are one in the same - Brock Lesnar told me so.

During a televised interview a few years ago, the current WWE Universal Champion claimed that what WWE Chairman Vince McMahon and UFC President Dana White are promoting is essentially the same thing. Don't think Brock's been working himself up into a shoot for the best part of the last 18 years inside the squared circle though, brother, because he does use the dreaded F-word while describing the grappletons. What Brock meant by this is that in his mind, Vinnie and Dana are both promoting fights and using the same business model while they do so. WWE presents their battles as though they are real, while those in the Octagon actually are - that's the only real difference.

Because of this, many wrestlers who've entertained us down the years have found themselves doing a spot of MMA on occasion with Lesnar himself the most famous example, conquering both worlds on the way to winning world titles galore.

I often think that professional wrestlers are wired differently to the majority of us. Being up close to a ring and seeing what these nutters put their bodies through in the name of entertainment boggles my mind. It should come as no surprise then that many decide to go one step further in the pain game and 'shoot' fight for money - here are 10 that have done so.

(There's obviously hundreds more but these are the 10 I found the most interesting.)

10. Rezar





Yes, this is a real thing. Before Rezar became a lover of writing and pain in equal measure, he fought inside cages for a living.

Don't think the former NXT Tag Team Champion was any kind of joke and then fell back on a comfortable spot in the Performance Center when things went wrong - he went 6-2 in his pro and amateur career over a two-year spell. This run included an impressive 18-second submission win over UFC veteran Oli Thompson (above) and a fight in Bellator MMA where he lost to Daniel Gallemore in 2014.

There's no doubt upon realising his credentials that certain members of the NXT roster will be looking at Rezar in a completely different light. 

9. Ludvig Borga


WWE


Forget everything that comes to mind when you see Ludvig Borga. This man is a hard bastard.

The Hellraiser from Helsinki was just that, garnering a reputation around his homeland for dominating many a man in amateur boxing bouts and barroom fights - a skill that was always going to be easily translatable to a nearby Octagon.

In Japan, Borga took on New Japan Pro Wrestling stars the calibre of Shinya Hashimoto in MMA fights, building a reputation that even WWE couldn't ignore in a time when cartoons were the flavour of the month. The company were so high on their fighting Finn that he was reportedly pencilled in for a WWE Championship reign before an ankle injury put paid to that.

Following the end of his professional wrestling career in 1997, Borga went back to the Octagon once more, losing comprehensively to Randy Couture by submission inside 56 seconds.

8. Sean O'Haire


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Even though he had one of the more captivating gimmicks of the Ruthless Aggression era as a devil's advocate telling the masses to do the wrong things in life, Sean O'Haire never reached the levels his potential suggested he should.

A fantastic wrestler and truly innovative performer inside the ring, the Natural Born Thriller couldn't break free of the shackles brought on by the shortcomings of creative. Because of this, he left WWE in 2004.

After making sporadic appearances for NJPW and various Indy promotions, O'Haire decided to pursue a career in MMA and Kickboxing - a natural step for a man famed for winning many Toughman competitions prior to stepping inside the ring.

While his Kickboxing record is up for debate, Sean went 4-2 in MMA with his biggest bout coming against WrestleMania XV special guest Butterbean. The fight was stopped after 29 seconds of the first round with O'Haire taking five straight punches to the head.

7. 'Gentleman' Jack Gallagher


The Jungle MMA & Fitness/Instagram


Jack Gallagher is a monster.

Even though he knew he had a potentially life-changing couple of weeks in the form of the Cruiserweight Classic on the horizon, he still decided that it would be a good idea to fight inside the Octagon. To me, this would seem like a massive gamble to take with such a pivotal event coming up. I'm not Jack though. Jack was confident. Jack won via submission in the first round. There are no issues here.

Jack Gallagher has a perfect 2-0 record in MMA with the other victory in that now infamous streak also coming in the first round of a fight and via submission. Consistency is key.

If you're ever fighting Jack Gallagher, 'watch out for the early submission attempt' would be my advice.


6. Alberto Del Rio


WWE


Alberto "Dos Caras" Rodriguez was a rarity in MMA circles back in the day as he used to grapple under a mask. This didn't stop him from being bloody good, mind you.

A mainstay in Pride and Deep - they're promotions, btw - Dos Caras went toe to toe against a whole host of names with a whole host of bad reputations. He won nine of 14 fights, with his most memorable victory coming against Kengo Watanabe after delivering a Belly to Belly Suplex that broke his adversary's arm.

As awesome as that sounds, former WWE World Heavyweight Champion Del Rio's MMA career will be forever remembered for the head kicking defeat at the hands of Mirko Cro Cop at Pride Bushido 1 in 2003. It was brutal but must see.

5. Batista


davebautista/Instagram


Long before the birth of BOOtista or BLUEtista, former WWE Champion Dave Bautista embarked on a brief stint in MMA that lasted WAY shorter than I'm sure he intended it to.

The 43-year-old Animal had a one-fight. That fight was against experienced journeyman Vince Lucero in 2012. After a shaky start, Bautista won via TKO in a win that many claim he shouldn't be bragging about. But hey, a win's a win in my book. Dave has won 100% of all the MMA fights he's ever had - good for him.

Despite his obvious shortcomings, a fully fledged career in MMA looked like becoming a reality with Strikeforce almost striking up a deal to have the former Evolution member fight under their banner. UFC then bought the promotion, so the deal was called off and he was back in a WWE ring on the road to WrestleMania XXX not too long after. The circle of life...

4. Jushin Thunder Liger


WWE


He appeared at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn back in 2015 so this counts ALRIGHT?! (I know this doesn't really count but it's Jushin Thunder Liger for crying out loud!)

You'll never guess who Liger's opponent was during his only MMA fight... it's none other than Mr SCARY MAN™ himself, IWGP Intercontinental Champion, Minoru Suzuki.

Liger stepped in as a last-minute stand-in when Suzuki's original opponent, Kensuke Sasaki, was forced to pull out due to injury. I reckon he wished he hadn't, you know, because he was absolutely demolished inside the first round. While the Shooting Star almost connected with a Rolling Koppu Kick, that lonely warrior quickly mounted, grounded, and pounded his opponent before finishing him off with a choke. Game over.

But hey - yes I know, I'm a guy whose glass is always half full - at least Liger stepped in the ring with a man like Suzuki, taking him on at his own game of Pancrase. That's a victory in of itself.


3. Bam Bam Bigelow


https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=9ovOibFqM6w

QUELLE SURPRISE! I know, I wasn't aware of this either.

During the early stages of his ECW run, Bam Bam Bigelow turned out for U-Japan in an MMA bout against Kimo Leopoldo. The Beast From the East would interestingly claim that the fight was a work and that he was "the highest paid jobber" during a shoot interview years later - but it's not clear whether he was telling the truth or not.

Even though he's absolutely massive and scary, Bam Bam was dominated. Badly. He was mounted within 10 seconds of the first bell and would eventually lose via Rear Naked Choke in the first round.

But hey - here comes some more positivity - at least the former WCW Hardcore Champion pocketed something between $75,000-$100,000 for a couple of minutes work despite having no name value or prior experience in MMA. Good for him.

2. Bobby Lashley


bobbylashley/Instagram


Bobby Lashley is coming back to WWE soon, allegedly. YIPEEEE! There he is beating the holy hell out of a bag - bless him.

I've got to include the former ECW Champion in this list as he's one of the few crossovers to actually make a success of himself in the MMA game.

Some call Lashley 'Dominator', and he certainly lived up to that billing in his first five MMA contests, seeing off the likes of Bob Sapp and Wes Sims with aplomb. He was supposed to fight former WWF Intercontinental Champion Ken Shamrock at one stage, but that fight was changed at the last minute.

Today, Bobby's MMA record reads 17 fights, 15 wins and two losses. There are four knockouts in there as well. Good on you, Bob, you BASTHUD!

1. Shinsuke Nakamura





Did you know that Shinsuke Nakamura turned down UFC once upon a time? No? Well, now you do.

UFC wanted to sign the 2018 Royal Rumble winner back in 2005 but the King of Strong Style decided to stay loyal to professional wrestling - a decision that has turned out pretty well for Nakamura in all corners of the globe.

After debuting in the squared circle in 2002, Nakamura only took a year-and-a-half to win the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. During these early stages of his career, he was also fighting in MMA contests - ending up 3-1 from five fights.

Appearing on one of Antonio Inoki’s annual Bom-Ba-Ye PPVs, Nakamura actually lost his first fight to Daniel Gracie before he bounced back to defeat Jan Nortje and Shane Eitner. He then went through a no contest against a much larger opponent named Alexey Ignashov, before defeating him in the rematch in his last MMA contest in May 2004.

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Ross Tweddell

Written by Ross Tweddell

Presenter over on the Cultaholic Wrestling YouTube channel. Email: [email protected]