(Let me guess, it’ll sound something like “Tito Ortiz, The Huntington Bad Beach Boy: Future NTA world TNA heavyweight champion of the world.” Capture via ProWresBlog.Blogspot.Com.)
For some MMA fighters, professional wrestling was just a one-time cash grab. For others, it became a second career. Inspired by yet another week of TNA Impact Wrestling’s efforts to get anyone to care about the professional wrestling experiments of two broken-down MMA legends, we’ll be examining fighters who took up professional wrestling after they made their names in MMA in our newest installment of The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly.
Bear in mind that this article is focusing on mixed martial artists who transitioned to professional wrestling careers, and not fighters who started off as professional wrestlers. So that means fighters like Brock Lesnar, Ken Shamrock, Bobby Lashley, Giant Silva, Bob Sapp, Dos Caras Jr. (aka Alberto Del Rio), Dan Severn (Google it) and Sakuraba will not be covered here — although a few of these men will make appearances in this article. Let’s start off on a positive note…
The Professional Wrestling Career of Josh Barnett.
When you’re thinking of good instances of an MMA fighter turning to professional wrestling as a second career choice, Josh Barnett should immediately come to mind. There have been other fighters who dabbled in professional wrestling, but Barnett is one of the only ones to be just as popular and successful in it as he was in MMA.
Before his transition, Barnett became the youngest heavyweight champion in UFC history by defeating Randy Couture at UFC 36. After being stripped of his title due to a positive drug test, Barnett set his sights on the Japanese professional wrestling scene, where the fans value legitimacy and toughness from their wrestlers more than mic skills and charisma (although Barnett has both in spades). He immediately challenged for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, and although he came up short, he went on to enjoy the most relevant crossover career of any fighter on this list before his return to the UFC earlier this year put a halt to the wrasslin’ for the time being.
It’d be easy to call his work with the incredibly underrated Perry Saturn or the technical wrestling clinic that he put on against Hideki Suzuki his most impressive stuff, but it’s probably not. Honest to God, Barnett’s biggest accomplishment may be the fact that he managed to pull Bob Sapp — who has the same cardio and technique in wrestling as he does in MMA — through a watchable match. How many people can claim that?