Nobody would argue that pro wrestling is as intense as an MMA fight. However, the physicality, strength, and stamina needed often overlap with the skills that MMA fighters need. That’s why the big egos of a WWE ring often transition perfectly into an MMA career. Likewise, many MMA athletes have also become pro wrestlers after retiring from fighting.
Today we’re checking out eight pro wrestlers who tried their hand at MMA fighting, where they made an impact on the industry. Some wrestlers are still active in the UFC and other promotions today, in which case you may want to find MMA odds if you favor them.
1. Brock Lesnar
Famous for being a giant of a man, Brock Lesnar’s entrance into the UFC was a huge affair in the industry. Having made a name for himself as a WWE pro wrestler, Lesnar had become WWE champion four times, being the youngest person to win a belt with them.
Though he lost his UFC debut, he then racked up uninterrupted wins that ended with him snatching the heavyweight championship title from Randy Couture. After being beaten, he went back to the WWE to break the Undertaker’s undefeated streak at the WrestleMania 30 event. Since then, he has settled with them as a free agent. During his time in the UFC, he made a respectable 5 wins to 3 losses, with 1 draw.
2. CM Punk
CM Punk isn’t just one of the most popular WWE stars, he recently made waves by joining the younger, hungrier All Elite Wrestling promotion. Before he signed onto AEW, he tried his straight-edge fists at MMA fighting. He fought two fights for the UFC at UFC 203 and UFC 225. In both, he was taken down quite easily, showing that even the best pro wrestlers don’t necessarily make great fighters. Since then, he has commentated for the Cage Fury Fighting Championships.
3. Ken Shamrock
Wrestlers were also present at the very start of the UFC, all the way from UFC 1 in 1993. Where a small group of fighters wanted to find out which martial art would win, Ken Shamrock represented shootfighting, a combination of wrestling and Kenpo moves. Shamrock got to the semi-finals of UFC 1, where he lost to Royce Gracie and his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He would later win the UFC Superfight Championship at UFC 6, too, before joining the WWE. Shamrock’s MMA record is at 28 wins, 17 losses, and 2 draws.
4. Dan Severn
Along with Shamrock, Dan Severn is another wrestler pioneer of the UFC and MMA industry. The Beast, as he was called, won UFC 5 and dethroned Ken Shamrock at UFC 9. He mainly fought for the National Wrestling Alliance, where Severn was a champion twice, his reign totaling 1,479 days. He’s definitely one of the most prolific fighters on this list, winning 101 fights, losing 19, and drawing in 7 across the full scope of his MMA career.
5. Ronda Rousey
Ronda Rousey started out as an MMA fighter after becoming the first American female to get a judo medal at the 2008 Olympic Games. Fighting for Strikeforce and then the UFC, she fought in the company’s first female fight hosted by the championship. Her career MMA record is at 12 wins and 2 losses. After retiring in 2016, she would join the WWE in 2018. What else would you expect from somebody nicknamed “Rowdy” after Rowdy Roddy Piper?
6. Dave Bautista
While you may recognize Dave Bautista from the many movies he has been in or his thrilling performance as Batista, he’s low down on this list because he has only ever fought one MMA fight. That’s barely a dent, let alone an impact, but he did win that MMA fight with Vince Lucero in 2012. Since then, he’s enjoyed an acting career.
7. Bobby Lashley
Fighting under the Raw brand, Bobby Lashley has become world champion across multiple wrestling promotions – four with the Impact World Championship, two with the ECW World Championship, and two WWE championships. He then fought with Strikeforce and later Bellator, only stopping recently. He was more accomplished at MMA fighting than most, winning 14 fights and losing just 2.
8. Sean O’Haire
An avid wrestler, kickboxer, and mixed martial artist, Sean O’Haire fought with SmackDown, WCW, and New Japan Pro-Wrestling. While personal tragedy cut his life short, he did manage to distinguish himself as a competent MMA fighter. He fought mainly at Pride with some GFC appearances too. He made 4 wins to 2 losses, not too shabby for a fighter in their first three years, but sadly he didn’t stick around long enough to have a full career.
Those are eight prominent examples of wrestlers who have fought in MMA promotions or vice versa. While their success varied and some of them only fought an MMA fight or two, it’s always commendable when athletes use their transferable skills to excel at multiple sports. With both pro wrestling and MMA fighting being so intense on the body, it’s impressive when somebody can do both.