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Crossover Appeal: Where Do Pro Wrestlers Fit Into MMA?


(What’s more disturbing: Lashley’s traps or his facial hair choices?)

There are three basic types of MMA fans, in my experience: those who love pro wrestling, those who are more or less indifferent, and those who hate it unequivocally. Of course there’s some middle ground, but not much.

Pro wrestling is a lot like hot dogs in that sense. Either you can ignore the obvious problems and enjoy it, or you can’t – and by the time you’re an adult you’ve probably made up your mind where you stand on the issue.

But something is happening in the tenuous link between pro wrestling and MMA. Promoters on both sides are starting to see the potential for profitability by incorporating aspects of the other. Brock Lesnar found a big payday when he left the WWE for the UFC, while the Undertaker now dons MMA gloves and finishes fights with something resembling a gogoplata. Nobody tell Nick Diaz about that, by the way. It will only make him mad.

It’s nothing new for MMA fighters to decide they might be better served financially if they left real fighting for scripted competition. Ken Shamrock, Don Frye, and Josh Barnett (to name just a few) have all heard that particular siren’s song. But recently more pro wrestlers are starting to consider MMA as a career choice. Kurt Angle toyed with the idea, and Bobby Lashley is said to be doing the same.

The question is, does this represent a natural evolution, or a blurring of the lines between two very different sports? Is it a good idea for MMA to welcome more pro wrestlers into its ranks?

Consider the pros: wrestling has an enormous fan base. They pack arenas on a weekly basis and enjoy a type of fan loyalty that borders on fanaticism. It’s not far-fetched to think that a Brock Lesnar or a Bobby Lashley might get some of those fans to give MMA a chance, and when they do they might discover that real fighting is pretty entertaining too. More fans means bigger shows, which means more money, which – as the Notorious BIG reminds us – means more problems.

Which brings me to the cons: pro wrestling is fake. Not fake in the sense that it isn’t athletically challenging or that the people who do it at the highest level aren’t tough as a coffin nail. They are. The travel schedule alone is a killer, to say nothing of getting hit with folding chairs and being dropped on your head a couple of times a week. But it’s fake in the sense that it’s not legitimate athletic competition. The outcome is scripted. The storylines and characters are contrived by writers.

Why does that matter for MMA? There are a couple different reasons. For one, a lot of people don’t know what to make of MMA right now. As a sport trying to gain mainstream acceptance, it’s teetering on a precipice. An influx of pro wrestlers might make some of the skeptics question its authenticity. It also might draw the wrong kind of media attention if a pro wrestler tries to trade on his WWE persona after becoming an MMA fighter, and to some extent it’s almost impossible not to.

But we have to face an uncomfortable truth about pro fighting in general, which is that there is no easier sport to fix. All you have to do is pay off one man. In MMA it’s particularly easy, because he doesn’t even have to feign a knockout. He can just walk into a submission. What could be simpler?

I’m not suggesting that pro wrestlers would necessarily be more likely to fix fights than anyone else. Being a former pro wrestler doesn’t say anything about a man’s ethical code or his willingness to take a dive, and plenty of guys who weren’t pro wrestlers have worked fights in the past.

But because it’s so easy to fix a fight, MMA has to be especially vigilant about making sure it doesn’t happen. Nothing is as important as the integrity of the sport. Once people can’t believe that what they’re seeing is completely real, once they even have cause to ask the question, the sport is weaker for it. That’s why MMA organizations need to be very careful about the way they promote former wrestling stars.

That said, MMA presents excellent opportunities for plenty of college wrestlers who previously had their options severely limited. Before MMA became popular and profitable they could try to make the Olympic team, try to get a spot on a pro wrestling roster, or go ahead and start working for a living like the rest of us talentless schmucks. Now they have a chance to continue as legitimate professional athletes, and you can see why that might appeal to them.

They shouldn’t be denied that chance or stigmatized for previous career choices. At the same time, this is potentially dangerous ground, and MMA organizations need to tread lightly on it. In this strange relationship, they’re the ones who have the most to lose.

(-Ben Fowlkes)

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KTFO- May 14, 2008 at 3:37 am
I have to say it makes me laugh every time the subject of "is this good for the sport" comes about. Dogging pro (pronounced fake) wrestlers because of what they've done in the past? I understand that MMA wants to be viewed as respectable and professional but don't miss the big picture here people: IT'S TWO PEOPLE IN A CAGE BEATING THE SHIT OUT OF EACH OTHER!!!!!!! Who gives a crap if the fighters are former wrestlers, painters, basket weavers, burger flippers, etc.? If they can fight they can fight, if they can't, well.
todzilla- May 13, 2008 at 3:59 pm
sorry guys, brock is a choad. he's another bob sapp, a legend in his mind with no skills aside from falling on people.
operator- May 13, 2008 at 1:30 am
Brock could have went into a wWWE style promo and made the UFC look like a joke but he carried himself like a professional athlete and I don't think Kurt Angle would have done the same. One of the worst moves in my opinion would be to hire Lashly and put him in the cage with Brock.
Anonymous- May 12, 2008 at 10:27 pm
''Brock Lesnar fought in Japan for his first MMA win and then came over to the United States.''


Are you really that new to the sport?
bump- May 12, 2008 at 9:54 pm
How will pro wrestlers do when they get off steroids? Will they just be injury prone has-beens? Probably.
Anthony- May 12, 2008 at 9:34 pm
Brock Lesnar fought in Japan for his first MMA win and then came over to the United States. How is Lesnar a fake? I am sick of these guys dogging on former wrestlers coming to the UFC. Brock Lesnar can hang. Plain and simple. He had Mir's number but made a mistake. Anyone who thinks that he got "handled" needs to go watch some old Pride from 2004 and then come back and speak with a clear mind
Boneman- May 12, 2008 at 7:46 pm
CMON!!!!

He might as well change his name to BALCO...!

They sure as hell didn't test Brock Lesner either....How can you tell me these gorillas aren't on the juice!....?
godzillad- May 12, 2008 at 7:45 pm
Notice how the only name you guys could come up with was a ridiculously accomplished amateur wrestling champion who was also an Olympic prospect?


My point is proven.
BIG CHRIS- May 12, 2008 at 7:26 pm
@todzilla- Brock Lesnar went into the UFC and fought a pretty decent Fighter in Mir, I respect him for that, and to me he did pretty well....his next fight is also a pretty big challenge for a guy with only a few Pro fights....to me Brock would crush Kimo, but that is just my opinion....I think Brock will hold the UFC HW belt one day, especially the way the HW division is looking in the UFC.
dont hate on them after they leave the fake shit- May 12, 2008 at 7:22 pm
Some of these guys were champion wrestlers in college and/or olympics. Would anyone on here say rashad evans, diego sanchez, koshchek, hughes, hendo, severn, hell even chuck lidell, were hurt by their real wrestling backgrounds? If spider silva goes and stars in a movie for $$, does he all of a sudden lose talent? being on TV in fakeass wrestling isnt for sport as much as its entertainment. i hate wrestling, but just dismissing these guys with: Hey! All wrestlers are poser faggs! ignores the real possibility of one of these guys havin what it takes to be an MMA champ. Cock chestnar may not be the one. Lashley may not be the one. I agree there is that roid thing, but it wasnt talked about much in MMA either! Look at the names that have been outed recently.
todzilla- May 12, 2008 at 7:16 pm
I like it. every time some moron comes to fight school and tries to tell me that those guys are the best fighters, they prove me right. that's why brock doesn't get in the ring with a real big biy, like josh barnett or kimo. they will get killed, and embarass the rest of the fake-fighting crowd. sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken.
cw- May 12, 2008 at 6:31 pm
My least favourite aspect of the crossover of the two arenas is when fake wrestling fans go to Sherdog (or other mma forums) and ask questions like 'I'm having trouble figuring out if if Matt Hughes is really a face or a heel. Any ideas?' Those people should be fed to the fucking lions, and they usually get the verbal equivalent on Sherdog.
Sebas- May 12, 2008 at 6:27 pm
I hate the fact that 98% of these 'Pro wrestler" have touch roids before...giving them an advantage on others....
Than- May 12, 2008 at 6:22 pm
With MMA still on shaky ground in the public eye, the switch over of these WWE FAKERS will only discredit MMA as a legitimate sport. I know there is already a steroid problem in MMA, this will undoubtedly make it worse. I mean come on, look at Lashley, I will pay anyone who can prove to me he never took sterioids, the same goes for Brock Lesnar.
Anonymous- May 12, 2008 at 6:12 pm
ITs a simple fact that pro wrestlers are fags. THey all try UFC on for size and it doesnt fit. Sure Kent Shamrock was a beast in his day but that was when MMA was first introduced to BJJ and the sport had zero evolution. Brock Lesnar is a beast but he got handled by a real MMA fighter. I hate seeing these pro wrestling faggots come over and try to become "real" fighters. They are not "real" fighters they are just real roided out freaks who play grab ass and tugg each other's cock'nballs. Man i cant wait for TNA Impact tonight.
johnnynormal- May 12, 2008 at 6:03 pm
Sweet Jesus on a stick, I hate pro-wrestling and any idiot who watches it. Including you, you idiot.
Burns- May 12, 2008 at 5:55 pm
Hey JoseMonkey, here's a lesson for you. There are more than three ways to feel about things. You could like something without loving it. You can dislike it without hating it. You could like some parts about it and dislike others.

See? Words mean things!
cpanger- May 12, 2008 at 5:50 pm
look, Bobby Lashley pumped so many roids that even his nose is ripped!
JoseMonkey- May 12, 2008 at 5:43 pm
Sorry -didn't mean to be an Anonymous Coward. I posted the "This statement is mind-numbingly silly" thing above.
Anonymous- May 12, 2008 at 5:42 pm
This statement is mind-numbingly silly, though true:

"There are three basic types of MMA fans, in my experience: those who love pro wrestling, those who are more or less indifferent, and those who hate it unequivocally."

You can replace the words "MMA fans" with virtually anything and this statement is still true.

Try this:

"There are three basic types of politicians, in my experience: those who love pro wrestling, those who are more or less indifferent, and those who hate it unequivocally."

OR


"There are three basic types of women, in my experience: those who love pro wrestling, those who are more or less indifferent, and those who hate it unequivocally."

OR


"There are three basic types of lazy writers, in my experience: those who love pro wrestling, those who are more or less indifferent, and those who hate it unequivocally."


After all, what other possible opinion could you have? Like it, hate it, or no opinion. Yup, you've got it covered, Ben. Goob job.
Anonymous- May 12, 2008 at 5:33 pm
Ummm, Brock Lesnar? He fought on a UFC ppv not long ago. Maybe you remember it? By virtue of his win over Lesnar, Frank Mir is now getting a shot at the UFC title. Ring any bells, godzillad?
Vrax- May 12, 2008 at 5:31 pm
The most important thing to do is start by getting the guys form pro-wrestling who have legit, and impressive amateur backgrounds, like the aforementioned Lesnar. Then in the promos and interviews really laser-focus on the athlete in question "wanting to compete for real" "missing true competition" and "wanting to find out if I can do this for real".

By selling the idea that these guys are TIRED of faking it, you start out on the right foot. Show them getting blasted by chairs, then juxtapose a shot of them getting tapped out in the gym, ending with a close-up where they say the MMA gym is the harder place to hang.

In that way you can play off the established toughness of pro-wrestlers, while continuing to hype the MMA fans by giving props to the sport.
godzillad- May 12, 2008 at 5:28 pm
Name a pro-wrestler who jumped to MMA in America. The only one I can think of is Kid Kash, who fought a can in the Midwest a few months ago on an undercard. You think that's gonna hurt the sport? This isn't Japan. You aren't seeing John Cena vs Fedor or The Undertaker vs Randy main eventing in a 40,000 seat arena.

Remember though, the WWE actively seeks out NCAA champions and Olympians to start training to be pro wrestlers. You're gonna see guys like C.B. Dollaway and Jake Roshalt turn down contracts when guys like Shelton Benjamin and Reid Flair don't.
Bdizzle- May 12, 2008 at 5:24 pm
Umm, Well are they going to allow of the top rope manuvers in MMA also?
It will make it a little more flashy, more money, the fighters will have marketing and MMA action figures.
Monday Night MMA
Jeff- May 12, 2008 at 4:56 pm
The bridge to be crossed is really the fact that wrestling is on basic TV.

I think alot of wrestling fans will tune into CBS on the 31st and it will explode from there.
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