5 NFL players who have tried their hand in boxing and MMA

Frank Gore wears a San Francisco 49ers robe to MMA fight
Frank Gore wears a San Francisco 49ers robe to MMA fight
Rit Nanda

Frank Gore became the latest convert from the NFL to combat sports like boxing and MMA. He is hardly the first person to take the plunge and he most certainly will not be the last.

Professional football has some characteristics that make it easier, relatively speaking, for a player to transition into boxing or MMA. Both sports require strength and physical fitness, and playing in the NFL teaches you to make one-on-one tackles that make it easier in boxing and MMA.

We look at a sample of such NFL players, other than the aforementioned Frank Gore, who have made a transition into either boxing or MMA and you be the judge on the success they have achieved.

NFL players who switched to boxing

#1 - Ed Jones

Ed (Too Tall) Jones
Ed (Too Tall) Jones

Ever heard of people who are really good at a job but they are not satisfied with it because they want to do something else? That was the position Ed Jones found himself in with the Dallas Cowboys.

He was a star defensive end who had won Super Bowl XII since being drafted overall number one in 1974. But his real love was boxing.

In 1979, he decided to curtail his NFL career and embark on a boxing career.

7⃣2⃣ Ed 'Too Tall' Jones DEA member of the Dallas Cowboys’ famed “Doomsday Defense", Ed Jones playee 15 seasons (1974–1978, 1980–1989) in the NFL for the Dallas Cowboys. In 1979, he briefly left football to attempt a career in professional boxing.#defendthisrun

He did not do too shabbily in his boxing career, embarking on a 6-0 record and winning five of them by knockouts, including Mexican heavyweight champ Fernando Montes.

He returned to the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys the next year, though, and later admitted that boxing made him a better NFL player.

The numbers do back up his assertion: he made it to three All-Pro selections after returning to the NFL at the culmination of his boxing stint.

#2 - Charlie Powell

CLAY-POWELL. I'm pretty sure this clip does not circulate on the internet. End of the bout between Cassius Clay and Charlie Powell. Powell bleeding all over the canvas as Clay goes left-hook happy. A dominant GOAT victory! @PulgasBoxeo @jonathaneig @Tom_Gray_Boxing @TheFightCity

Charlie Powell is perhaps the most successful boxer who also played in the NFL. But it was not just boxing and football, he also played baseball professionally, making him a true multi-sports athlete.

He was selected for baseball first, but after a season he moved to the NFL and a year later with the San Francisco 49ers. He played from 1952 to 1957 with them.

He also played from 1960 to 1961 with the Oakland Raiders, but in between he participated in boxing at the top of his profession.

Also Read: 5 NFL players who have also been in the boxing ring

His boxing career involved notably defeating Nino Valdes, the Cuban boxer ranked second in the world at the time in the heavyweight category. He also fought Muhammad Ali but was knocked out in the third round and lost to Floyd Patterson in six rounds.

NFL players who switched to MMA

#1 - Brock Lesnar

Brock Lesnar participates in a fight at UFC 200
Brock Lesnar participates in a fight at UFC 200

If Charlie Powell was a multi-sport superstar in boxing, in MMA that title belongs to Brock Lesnar. Brock Lesnar not only played in the NFL, he made his name as a professional wrestler.

Competing at the highest level in three sports is no small matter.

Brock Lesnar is ridiculous. UFC champion, WWE champion, NFL stint, he'd probably be the best if he focused on 1 sport

Brock Lesnar began his career in professional wrestling and found great success there as he became the youngest ever champion in 2002 at the age of 25. He joined the Minnesota Vikings in 2004, but only made it onto the practice squad and was cut before the regular season.

Also Read: 5 former NFL players who have fought in MMA

He joined the MMA in 2007 and by 2008 he was the UFC Heavyweight champion. After a brief hiatus, he returned in 2010 to become the undisputed MMA champion in the UFC Heavyweight category.

He returned to the wrestling arena in 2021.

Though his successful wrestling and MMA careers have been sandwiched by a less than stellar NFL career, the fact he made it onto a team at the very top of professional football is, in itself, no small feat.

#2 - Greg Hardy

UFC 249 Ferguson v Gaethje
UFC 249 Ferguson v Gaethje

A former defensive end in the NFL, he made his name with the Carolina Panthers, with whom he played from 2010 to 2014. He had his best season in 2013, when he won nominations to the Pro Bowl and the All-Pro team.

He ended his career with the Dallas Cowboys in 2015.

After going unsigned in NFL free agency, Greg Hardy is pursuing an MMA career: "I’m going to do this the right way."

He began training for MMA in 2016, and then made his UFC debut in 2019. Since being in MMA, he has played a total of 12 times and won 7, 4 disqualifications and 1 no contest.

His next match is slated to be against Alexey Oleynik on January 2022.

#3 - Herschel Walker

Philadelphia Eagles v San Francisco 49ers
Philadelphia Eagles v San Francisco 49ers

The greatest college player and a great NFL player, Herschel walker is the most accomplished player to try his hand at MMA. His rushing yards for the USFL and NFL combined are the most for any player who has played in the NFL, excluding Henry Williams, who played in the CFL as well.

They included more than 10,000 yards from scrimmage and over 5,000 rushing yards. He played for the Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants in his NFL career.

Mar. 3/1962 - Herschel Walker is born. Won the Heisman Trophy, 13,084 total yards, 82 TDs, went to the 1992 Olympics & 2-0 as MMA fighter

Herschel Walker's MMA career spanned two fights, one each in 2010 and 2011. He dispatched both fighters in the first and third round knockouts.

It is a novel performance related to a promotion but his two wins are nothing to be sneezed at, especially when one considers that he was nearly 50 years old at the time. He ended his brief MMA career undefeated.

Edited by LeRon Haire


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