The worlds of professional wrestling and mixed martial arts are certainly very different, but that hasn’t deterred these wrestlers from making the move from one world to the other. Despite these differences, the athletes involved do obviously have some common ground when it comes to their skill sets and techniques.

There are many examples of wrestlers going into MMA and vice versa. Ronda Rousey, for example, was a notable convert from the UFC to the WWE in recent years. Here, though, we will focus entirely on those who began their careers as professional wrestlers before transitioning to MMA.

Here’s our list of 5 awesome wrestlers to try their hands at MMA.

Check out Fanduel’s MMA betting odds and props here.

5) Brock Lesnar

Brock Lesnar is easily the most dominant MMA fighter featured on our list. He is the only man to ever hold both a WWE world title and a UFC title, making him the most successful crossover athlete to ever go from pro wrestling to mixed martial arts.

Lesnar signed to the WWE in 2000 and trained for 2 years before debuting on Monday Night Raw in March of 2002. Only 4 months later, he defeated The Rock to become the WWE champion, making him the youngest ever to win this title at a mere 25 years old.

Lesnar eventually found his way to MMA in 2006 and won his first professional MMA bout in Japan in 2007. Following this, his entry into the UFC didn’t get off to a good start as he was defeated by Frank Mir after getting caught by his kneebar. However, in the span of only 3 months, Lesnar defeated both Heath Herring and Randy Couture, securing his position as the UFC heavyweight champion.

4) CM Punk

CM Punk is a former WWE superstar whose tenure in the UFC was a source of a lot of controversies. He signed to the UFC due to his immense popularity among pro wrestling fans, and the UFC was happy to sign him as an athlete of his stature and popularity was likely to draw many new fans to the sport. Though it’s likely that this was successful, CM Punk’s MMA career was anything but. Unfortunately, Punk was sorely underprepared for his fights and he was defeated soundly in his two fights for the UFC.

3) Bobby Lashley

Bobby Lashley saw success in combat sports early on as a talented college wrestler, winning three NAIA national wrestling championships and almost earning his place at the 2004 Olympics. Unfortunately, his amateur wrestling career was cut short by a freak accident as Lashley was a bystander in a bank robbery that year. Soon afterward, however, Lashley signed a contract with the WWE. Here he soon became two-time ECW champion and one-time United States champion in only the first 3 ½ years with the company.

Lashley began training in mixed martial arts after getting released from the WWE, and he had his first professional MMA bout in 2008. He proved himself to be a competent MMA fighter, earning a record of 15-2. He later returned to the WWE in 2019.

2) Alberto Del Rio

Alberto Del Rio began his professional wrestling career in 2000, but soon afterward he began a parallel career in mixed martial arts. Between 2001 and 2010, he had worked in a variety of wrestling promotions and MMA companies and he amounted a professional record of 9-5. Famously, he would compete in MMA whilst wearing his professional wrestling mask.

Perhaps his most famous MMA bout was against Mirko Cro Cop at Pride Bushido 1. This ended, unfortunately for Del Rio, with a picture-perfect highlight-reel kick to his head, which knocked out Del Rio in the first round.

Following his MMA career, Del Rio was very successful in the WWE, where he became a four-time world champion.

1) Shinsuke Nakamura 

Shinsuke Nakamura had an incredibly successful and popular 14-year tenure in New Japan Pro Wrestling. It was his time here that earned him the nickname “Kick of Strong Style”. Nakamura became the youngest IWGP heavyweight champion at only 23 years old. He went on to have two more reigns as the IWGP heavyweight champion, as well as five runs as the Intercontinental champion. Around this time, he began training mixed martial arts in the dojos of Japan. In his first fight, he lost to Daniel Gracie. Later on in his professional MMA career, his first win in professional MMA at NJPW Ultimate Crush against Jan Nortje. He would amass a record of 3-1 in his MMA career. Later, we would go on to compete in professional wrestling in WWE’s NXT brand, where he became a two-time NXT champion.


Both MMA and pro wrestling are loved by millions of fans worldwide, and it’s clear to see why there is so much crossover talent between the two worlds. Despite this, success in one domain does not guarantee success in the other, as we have seen many times.