Mixed martial arts is a competitive sport and professional wrestling is athletic entertainment. Although the outcomes in the WWE are scripted, pro wrestling shares a lot in common with mixed martial arts.
Combatants are usually in great shape, they come from strong amateur or sports backgrounds, and they both have an immense desire to succeed.
Anyone who takes one look at WWE champion John Cena knows that here’s a guy who could have easily fought in MMA had he chosen to go that route earlier in his career. MMA and pro wrestling are sort of cousins in the sports worlds.
We all know the story of Brock Lesnar and how he went from defeating The Rock to win the WWE championship to knocking out Randy Couture to win the UFC Heavyweight Championship.
But can it happen in reverse? Can an MMA fighter enjoy a successful career in the WWE. Quite simply, yes. Ken Shamrock and Dan Severn already did it. Who will be the next to make the jump?
It’s tough to be a great professional wrestler. It takes timing, athleticism, and technique. A good professional wrestler can tell a story through their body, facial expressions and vocal skills. These are skills that few possess.
Let’s take a look at five MMA fighters who should leave the Octagon for the squared-circle.
5. Chael Sonnen
Sonnen is the UFC’s best trash talker. He’s a walking record player of 1970s Superstar Bill Graham quotes. Sonnen grew up a wrestling fan and knows how to sell a UFC match better than anyone. He belongs in the WWE. As his skills in the Octagon fade, Sonnen should consider making the jump to the WWE while he is still viable. He could feud with his buddy CM Punk and have great, athletic, MMA-style match.
4. Jon Jones
So the 27-year-old UFC light heavyweight champion wants to retire before he is 30 years old. Great. Just in time for him to start a career in the WWE. Jones is already highly disliked in MMA. He comes across as arrogant, cocky and full of himself. What better place for a guy like that than in the WWE? With a little bit of training Jones could easily pull off a decent match with a great worker. If Dennis Rodman can wrestle a match alongside Hulk Hogan in WCW, Jones could play a great heel.
3. Ronda Rousey
Make no mistake about it: Ronda Rousey would own more of the WWE than the entire McMahon family. Rousey grew up a pro wrestling fan. She took her nickname “Rowdy” from WWE icon “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. Rousey oozes charm and charisma. Imagine her entering the WWE and challenging Stephanie McMahon for control of the company. Rousey could single-handedly lift the WWE to 1980s popularity levels. She’s a natural heel and who would bring instant heat to a WWE ring. How cool would it be to see her arm-bar Stephanie McMahon and then walk away with Triple H.
2. Josh Barnett
Barnett is second only to Sonnen when it comes to pro wrestling-style trash talking. And he’s no stranger to the genre. Barnett has already dabbled in pro wrestling in Japan. But he needs to head to the big-time of the WWE. The WWE needs a big, 250-pound heavyweight MMA fighter like Barnett to push around a guy like Cena. Barnett loves wrestling and understands wrestling’s psychology. When he’s done with the UFC, Barnett should follow his wrestling heart and put the smackdown on the WWE roster.
1. Cain Velasquez
Picture this: The 6 foot 1 Mexican-American fighter, with his “Brown Pride” tattoo on his chest, stepping into the ring to challenge Jack Swagger, Zeb Colter and “The Real Americans.” That’s instant money for everyone involved. Velasquez doesn’t exude a lot of charisma, but he doesn’t need to. He’s a legitimate tough guy, with big-time amateur wrestling abilities. Velasquez could play a heel in Ohio and huge babyface in California. The WWE has been looking for a top level Hispanic star for years. Velasquez would be bigger than Eddie Guerrero. Imagine Velasquez putting in six months of hard-training and making a run at the WWE title? He might be able to do what Lesnar did, but only in the reverse. Velasquez could become the first UFC-to-WWE champion.