Las Vegas, Nevada-based professional wrestler Ryback Allen Reeves is reportedly in negotiations with Bellator MMA. The wrestler was born Ryan but changed his name legally to Ryback so that he could continue to use it after an acrimonious split with the WWE over pay. It seems improbable that someone with no background in combat sports would attempt the transition to MMA after being unsatisfied with compensation in the WWE, but that is what he told X1075 in Las Vegas on Monday.
Ryback modeled his character at least in part on Goldberg, who in turn explicitly created an MMA-oriented look. And Ryback rose as high as WWE Intercontinental Champion before his acrimonious departure from the company earlier this year.
Three months ago he posted an image wearing a poorly tied white belt in a BJJ class, taken at Vegas’sFasi Sports. He captioned the image “Feels good to learn new skills.”
But playing a fighter on television is of course not the same as being a fighter. For every Brock Lesnar (who was, in fact, a tremendous Div I national wrestler) there are any number of Bam Bam Bigelows and CM Punks who got embarrassed.
Current TNA world heavyweight champion Bobby Lashley fights in Bellator, but Lashley did it right. He was a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) national wrestling champion in college and then wrestled for the Army. A freak injury ended his Olympic hopes, and he transitioned to pro wrestling.
Lashley has worked with some of the top teams in mixed martial arts including AKA and ATT, and sought out Josh Barnett who is a master at applying pro wrestling skills in the cage. And Lashley started in small shows, in 2008. He now has an impressive record of 14-2, and is on a seven-fight win streak, the last four in Bellator.
Lashley is a role model for doing both pro wrestling and MMA at a high level simultaneously. CM Punk is a role model for doing it wrong. If Ryback is genuinely interested in MMA, rather than sign with a top promotion, and then start training, he might consider training first, and taking a local fight, or several, to learn whether the sport is for him, and vice versa.
In any case, Bellator CEO Scott Coker did not indicate a signing was imminent.
“Spoke, but nothing close,” he said of the negotiations.