Former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar currently holds a firm grip on the WWE heavyweight championship with his convincing win over John Cena at SummerSlam.
It got us interested in taking a look at some wrestlers, past and present, that if the UFC existed the way now when they were prime, could have made a successful transition to mixed martial arts.
Let’s run them down, in no particular order:
Stewart Edward Hart grew up impoverished and lived in a tent as a child with his family in Alberta. The future Stampede Wrestling creator and posthumous WWE Hall-of-Famer was an amateur wrestler at 14-years old, became well-versed in catch wrestling and football, plus served in the Canadian Navy. He could have competed in the Olympics, if not for the Second World War.
MMA ANALYSIS: Hart had the talent, heart and desire to excel in mixed martial arts. He would have been a great coach too, as he passed on his knowledge to countless wrestlers, most notably to his sons Bret, Owen, Keith, Bruce, and Smith. He was billed at 5-10 so we think welterweight or lightweight would be a good weight class for him. Opponents would want to keep the fight on the feet, as Hart’s submissions and grappling would be significant. Hart would need to improve his striking and boxing to set up his takedowns and ground game.
“DR. DEATH” STEVE WILLIAMS
Dr. Death was an All-American football player at Oklahoma University and amateur wrestler before getting into the pros. Billed at 6-1 but probably closer to 5-10, Williams was a solid athlete, whose skills would translate well to MMA. He was a big guy as a pro wrestler weighing 265 pounds plus, but if could slim down to 205 pounds, that would be ideal.
MMA ANALYSIS: Williams could take a punch, and his grappling gets him in the door. Like Hart, he would need to work on his striking and footwork to capitalize on the feet.
ANDRE THE GIANT
Forget the image of the overweight and old Andre Rousimoff in his latter WWE years.
Andre Roussimoff would have shaken up MMA as a youngster. In his youth, his prime standing at least 6-10 to 7-0 (his height is disputed by experts) and weighing 290 pounds, the Frenchman was already an excellent rugby and soccer player by the age of 18 according to “Lord” Alfred Hayes, one of the first wrestlers to “discover” him. He could have been a bigger version of Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva.
The NFL’s Washington Redskins offered him a tryout in 1975.
His stories of strength and toughness (and drinking) are folklore. It would have been interesting to how far he could go in the UFC.
MMA ANALYSIS: Andre had deceptive agility and skill as a wrestler. He could also take a punch as we saw with the exhibition bout with Chuck Wepner. My only concerns would be motivation and cardio. It’s well known that he didn’t like to work out and liked to drink e.g. 119 beers in one sitting. Also he didn’t follow doctor’s orders well if he look at how he dealt with his acromegaly condition, which ultimately took his life.
But the UFC heavyweight crown could provide that motivation for The Eighth Wonder of the World.
Opponents would want to get Andre off his feet and work on a submission. Easier said than done though.
Like many pro wrestlers, Hansen comes from a football background, playing at West Texas State University. Listed at 6-4 and weighing around 300 pounds, he had the frame and toughness to succeed in the UFC heavyweight division. Roy Nelson immediately comes to mind when thinking of Stan Hansen.
MMA ANALYSIS: Hansen could take a shot, but it would make sense for him to develop some hand speed, master takedown defence and striking to complement his knockout power. Some BJJ would also surprise those would try to take the fight to the ground with him.
Nattie comes from the Hart wrestling family, so she’s tough and skilled. She also hooked up with The Gracie Family and trained in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. At 5-5, she’s a bit undersized, but then again, UFC bantamweight champ Ronda Rousey stands 5-6. She’s coachable and generally an all-around athlete with good cardio.
Nattie would want to work on and develop power in her striking and and focus on footwork as most opponents would want to keep the fight standing. With people like the Gracies helping her, we think she would go far.
“BAD NEWS” ALLEN COAGE
“Bad News” was so bad he made Andre the Giant back down on a bus during a verbal incident. He was the first African-American to medal in judo at the 1976 Olympics, setting things up for our final candidate. Standing 6-3 and weighing around 250 pounds, Mauro Ranello said on The Ross Report that Coage was on record as probably ending up in MMA if it had existed in his day.
MMA ANALYSIS: Coage would be formidable at heavyweight or light-heavyweight, but we’d recommend the latter. His judo would be an asset, but he’d still need to work on his grappling, hands, cardio and BJJ, so opponents couldn’t use lay-and-pray or BJJ. His promo skills would make him one of the more popular UFC personalities.
Don’t be fooled by Santino’s comedic antics in the WWE. The man is well-schooled in combat sports.
Having interviewed Santino aka Anthony Carelli twice, MMA runs deep in his veins as a 25-year judo practitioner and amateur wrestler before getting into pro wrestling. Did you know he even had one of Georges St-Pierre’s wrestling coaches Victor Zoberman when he was in university at Concordia?
He recently retired from the WWE earlier this year and runs his BattleARTS Academy in Mississauga, Ontario.
MMA ANALYSIS: Santino stands around 5-10 and weighed 230 pounds at his peak, so he’d need to drop down to welterweight to keep from tangling with the big boys. He is deceptively strong and has solid wrestling, but not the NCAA-calibre wrestling that much of the competition would have, so he’d need to keep working on that. Finally, he would need to improve his striking and work on his submissions to operate as a MMA technician.
BONUS PICK: KURT ANGLE
Kurt’s amateur credentials cannot be questioned: 1996 Olympic gold medallist with an injured neck. I talked to pro wrestlers who marvelled at how quickly transitioned to the pro wrestling game.
His level of wrestling would be an asset in the light-heavyweight game. Think Dan Henderson, minus the H-Bomb.
MMA ANALYSIS: But he could he make 205? He would be too small as a 6-0 240 heavyweight. The hectic pro wrestling schedule didn’t give him much time to tend to his neck, and it would have been mandatory in MMA. But it would also be a target for submission specialists. Also, like all of the above candidates, striking and footwork would need to be honed to keep opponents honest on the feet.