WWE Wrestlers in MMA: Batista - transition into Hollywood, and fighting poverty

Batista in WWE (left), Batista as Drax (right)
Batista in WWE (left), Batista as Drax (right)
Anirban Banerjee

A lot of wrestlers have often tried their hand in the cage to see if they can stand and survive a fight with the best athletes in the world. Given how wrestling forces them to develop their athletic abilities, it can seem that entering the MMA cage is only a step away from that. This could not be further from the truth, and even the most athletic wrestler might find themselves demolished in the cage; something which was very visible in CM Punk's MMA outings.

On the other side of things, there are some who are able to make the transition between the sports and reach some form of recognition, as can be seen in the case of Brock Lesnar.

However, when it came to Dave Batista, his run in the world of MMA after WWE was one that went largely overlooked. It did not have the hype of either Lesnar or Punk, and even the aftermath was without the celebratory success of Lesnar and the mourning of Punk. It was overlooked, perhaps because it was not on as big a stage as UFC, or perhaps, for some other reason.

In this article, we are going to take a look into Dave Batista's very brief MMA career.

Batista and his departure from WWE

For a long time in WWE โ€” around 8 years โ€” Batista went from looking like a promising main-event wrestler for the company, to actually being the man on the poster. It was a successful time for him, and if you asked any wrestling fan at the time, they would be able to tell you about 'The Animal' Batista.

However, what they would not be able to tell you, is that even at that time, his aspirations lay outside the WWE. He wanted to become an actor. Unfortunately, for most people not named John Cena and Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, the WWE schedule does not really permit much time or effort spent elsewhere.

So, when Batista asked if he could act, he was told that he was needed on the shows. This was something of a big blow to The Animal, and he decided that if the company would not allow him to pursue his passion, then he might as well leave.

"They said, 'Sorry we need you here. We need you on the shows'. And I said, 'Well if you're not going to let me pursue something I'm really passionate about, then I'm going to leave.'" - h/t GiveMeSport.

That's exactly what he did, and post-May 2010, Batista had left WWE. It was time for him to try his hand elsewhere.

In the video below, you can see the segment where Batista left WWE.


Batista and MMA - a brief obsession

Not for a moment should we lose sight of the fact that Batista's biggest obsession after leaving WWE was to get into acting. Unlike other newcomers to Hollywood, Batista had one advantage, and that was he was a recognizable name.

Four years after leaving the company, he would land his biggest role that would launch him into Superstar-dom โ€” Drax the Destroyer in Guardians of the Galaxy. However, in those three years before he could be cast in the role, he had more than his share of obstacles.

Before he could get into acting, there was one more passion that he had, and that was the world of MMA. In 2010, a month after leaving his WWE career behind, the future Drax announced that he would be trying his hand in the world of combat sports. He signed a deal with Strikeforce, but even here, there was an obstacle, as Zuffa purchased Strikeforce.

Finally, it was announced that Batista would be making his MMA debut in Classic Entertainment and Sports on October 6th, 2012. He was supposed to face Rashid Evans, but the fight fell through five days before it was supposed to take place. Evans had a probation violation that sent him back to jail. Thankfully, someone could replace Evans, and 40-fight veteran Vince Lucero stepped into the cage. Batista had an impressive showing, considering that this was his first fight, as he was able to stop Lucero only 4 minutes and 5 seconds into the first round.

For anyone else, this might seem like it would be the beginning of multiple MMA fights and a possible career in the sport. For Batista, it was only a stop on his way to his actual passion, acting.

Batista as Drax The Destroyer
Batista as Drax The Destroyer

The time which was between Batista leaving WWE and him getting the role of Drax, there was a lot of struggle for the former WWE World Champion. He lost everything and went broke, and while returning to WWE was an option, he was not going to simply take the easier route.

He had left the company with something to prove, and that was exactly what he was going to do.

"Then I starved for three years. I went broke and lost everything. I couldn't get a job. I said, 'I will never go back to wrestling until I prove what I set out to prove that I could make it as an actor.'"

Sitting in 2020, it is safe to say that he proved himself. As he admitted in his interviews afterwards, the first thing that he did when the filming of Guardians of the Galaxy wrapped, was to say that he would like to return to WWE. Batista has done that and has had two good runs in the company since that time. He has also flourished as an actor, with roles outside the Marvel Universe as well, like Spectre, Hotel Artemis, Blade Runner 2049, Escape Plan 2, Stuber, and quite a few others.

This year, he is quite deservedly being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.

Looking at Dave Batista, it is safe to say that while he never pursued his career in MMA, he has the spirit of a fighter that very few in the sport possess.

Edited by Anurag Mitra


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