The line between professional wrestling and MMA is very clear. However, this does not restrict performers from crossing over from pro-wrestling to MMA or vice versa. While both the spheres are incredibly hard to perfect, they do retain their own uniqueness and beauty. MMA and pro-wrestling both involve their own risks and dangers, but the transition from one to the other can be accomplished if one sets his or her mind to it.
This fact has given rise to a string of professional wrestlers that came in with an MMA background. With Brock Lesnar crossing over from the WWE to the UFC recently, here is a look at some of the wrestlers that have MMA backgrounds.
#1 Santino Marella
Santino Marella will always be remembered as one of the most successful comical gimmicks in WWE. His performance earned him a lot of praise and at the same time, he had a few championship runs as well. While Santino was exclusively portrayed as a goofy character in the WWE, he is someone who does have a solid background in MMA as well.
Before ending up in the WWE developmental territory, Santino was a judo specialist. He had a memorable stay in Japan but thanks to some visa problems, Santino had to return and found his place in the wrestling business later on.
#2 Shad Gaspard
Before making it big with Cryme Tyme in WWE, Shad Gaspard had a memorable stay in combat sports. He started training in boxing when he was just five years old and MMA training began soon after. He was mostly into Bar fighting tournaments that involved boxing, Kick boxing and MMA and has an impressive win-loss record of 35-7 in such no-holds-barred fights.
He was also incredibly athletic in his school days as well, having tried his hand in wrestling, track, and basketball. After spending some time as the bodyguard for celebrities like Britney Spears, Puff Daddy, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Mike Tyson, Shad decided to get into professional wrestling.
#3 Alberto Del Rio
Alberto Del Rio started out in professional wrestling back in 2000. Although he did ride on some momentum due to his family name initially, he did manage to establish himself as a big star. But before he could do the same, Del Rio decided to transition into MMA. He made his MMA debut in 2001 and went on to have 14 MMA fights.
The record of Del Rio is impressive to be frank as he went on and won nine matches, while only losing five. His last fight happened in 2010 when he was knocked out by Yamamoto Hanshi in a Cage of Combats event.
#4 Taka Michinoku
Just like Santino, Taka Michinoku is yet another character that the fans did not see with the seriousness that he deserved. He did have a run in WWE towards late 90s but before he landed in Vince McMahon’s promotion, Michinoku had a stay in MMA. 1997 was the exact year in which he competed in the sport and didn’t have fond memories of it.
Michinoku lost his only fight to Keiichiro Yamamiya in the first round via submission in an event that was held in Tokyo. This proved to be the end of the short MMA career of Michinoku, after which he went to the WWE.
#5 Nathan Jones
Nathan Jones had a comparatively short stay in the wrestling business. He was picked up perfectly by the WWE and was placed in the mammoth stable of Team Lesnar that carried him around for some time. Nathan was even booked as the tag team partner of Undertaker at WrestleMania, although later the WWE went ahead and pulled him off it.
Before all this happened though, Nathan Jones tried his hand in MMA. His stay was pretty uneventful and happened in 1997. He fought in the KRS-Pride event and he was submitted by Koji Kitao. After his MMA and wrestling career, Nathan Jones pursued acting and found success with Mad Max: Fury Road.
#6 Daniel Puder
Daniel Puder will always be remembered for two things, First, for winning the million dollar tough enough competition of WWE, and secondly, for almost breaking the arm of Kurt Angle. It was perhaps the second one that cost him his stay in the company though. Nevertheless, before entering WWE, Puder was trained in Mixed Martial Arts.
This is why, after his wrestling career was wrapped up after stays in WWE, ROH, and NJPW, he went into MMA. Puder had a successful run as well. He went on to have eight matches and ended up winning all of them meaning that he is still undefeated in MMA.
#7 Ken Shamrock
Ken Shamrock was very successful in MMA, period. Tagged as ‘The World’s Most Dangerous Man’, Shamrock went on to headline a lot of UFC events and showed everyone that he was indeed one of the most noted fighters during his time. He started his MMA career back in 1993 and is still fighting in Bellator.
During all this time, Shamrock tried his hand in pro-wrestling as well starting in 1997. He won the Intercontinental championship, tag team championship and also the King of the ring during his stay in WWE and was a good draw during that time.
#8 Sylvester Terkay
Sylvester Terkay might not ring many bells as his career with WWE only lasted around six months. But the fans in Japan would recognize Terkay as one of the most decorated foreign wrestlers. In fact, he was named the No.1 non-Japanese wrestler at one point. Terkay, before achieving all these in wrestling, had tried out his hand in MMA.
He fought in four fights, winning three and losing one. His MMA career was heavily impacted by his college wrestling where he was a runner-up in the NCAA division heavyweight tournament where is lost to this guy called Kurt Angle. Terkay, however, won the tournament in the year that followed.
#9 Dan Severn
Dan Severn is one of the biggest names in the history of MMA and also a UFC Hall of famer. Severn’s stay in MMA came as a direct result of his wrestling career in college where he ended up becoming an All-American at Arizona state. He has an MMA record of 101-19-7 and is clearly a legend to say the least.
While enjoying success in MMA, Severn also tried his hand in professional wrestling starting from 1995. He went on to win numerous titles and had spells in a string of promotions including the WWE. He is also the only performer to hold championships in MMA and pro-wrestling at the same time.
#10 Shinsuke Nakamura
Shinsuke Nakamura is currently making waves in the NXT. His strong style has been well received by the WWE fans and it is safe to say that it is heavily influenced by MMA just like most of the Japanese wrestlers that find their way to the WWE. In fact, Nakamura has a background in MMA as well. Although he started off in professional wrestling, Nakamura crossed over to MMA before making his name in the business.
Nakamura, with his vicious kicks, went on to have five MMA fights. He lost his first match via submission, but then went on to win his next two. His fourth fight ended in a no contest and won his last fight resulting in a 3-1-1 overall record.