Freelance: 7 WWE Stars That Should Fight in the UFC
Aside from the financial aspect, the “CM Punk in the UFC” experiment didn’t go well in anyone’s opinion. However, the legitimate wrestling skill and NCAA championship-winning background of Brock Lesnar (that some may doubt after his failed UFC 200 drug tests) made him a huge draw before Punk. Here are seven performers from the world of sports-entertainment that might fare well (either presently or hypothetically) inside the octagon.
7. CM Punk (Again)
Look at the above paragraph. Phil “CM Punk” Brooks’ UFC debut was a massive flop in every way—except financially. His loss and the company’s gain were both predicted and while UFC President Dana White doesn’t expect to see Brooks compete again, he wants to and both he and White have been on good terms since before he entered the UFC.
The fact is that the only major difference been MMA/the UFC and WWE is that MMA is actual fist-to-face combat (barring the rare fixed fight.) Another fact to bring up is that the new UFC owners, WME-IMG, are currently and will continue to try to get back the plus-$4 billion that they spent in July of 2016 to buy the organization.
MMA is a circus and as much as MMA fans might not like that, they keep feeding the monster by continuing to buy events like Punk’s UFC debut, or events like the late Kimbo Slice’s fights, and more coming to mind. Brooks wanted to compete at a lower level of MMA, just to compete, and allegedly offered to be on The Ultimate Fighter.
It was White who offered Brooks (who had no amateur MMA or general combat sports background beyond a little bit of kempo karate as a child) a shot at the UFC. White and Brooks have not discussed a return, but the former WWE champion is back in the gym training, always making a second fight a possibility.
Fans will pay for the second fight to hate-watch it and then bash the obvious no-contest on the internet (just as many did when he lost to Mickey Gall) but the UFC brass will be laughing at those fans all the way to the bank.
6. American Alpha (WWE Smackdown Live)
Chad Gable (Chas Betts) and Jason Jordan (Nathan Everhart) are the modern-era “Team Angle” for the WWE given their standout legitimate wrestling pedigrees. Betts was a high school state champion while he lived in Minnesota and eventually progressed to the Olympic trials, winning his match 3-0. He also won his match during the qualification round of the 2012 Summer games before being eliminated.
Despite being 31 years old, Betts could have a shot thanks the above-mentioned Brooks and having a little more youth on his side.
Betts’ partner in Everhart was a triple threat in baseball, football, and wrestling (he was even drafted for baseball immediately following the end of his high-school career but chose college/wrestling instead.)
An Iowa State Hawkeye, Everhart was a runner-up for being the best heavyweight in the nation at one point and ranked in the top 15 for three consecutive years. The now-28-year old Chicago area native went 35-0 during his senior season and clearly still has a lot left in the tank.
If Brock Lesnar proved anything, it seems that it was that wrestlers don’t like to get punched. Get either Betts or Everhart used to that while also adding jiu-jitsu to their arsenal and either could be a real submission threat.
5. Rezar of the Authors of Pain (WWE NXT)
It’s really a shame that Rezar (Gzim Selmani) isn’t still competing in MMA today. One half of the current NXT champions, Selmani first trained in judo begging at the age of four, moved on to judo at 12, and full-on MMA by 15. His record stands at a decent 4-2 with all of his fights (both wins and losses) being by stoppage.
Selmani was the main event for the British Associaton of Mixed Martial Arts (BAMMA, a notable lower-level promotion) against future Bellator competitor Oli Thompson. He went just 18 seconds with Selmani before being submitted by way of guillotine choke in the first round. Selmani moved on to Bellator as well (his last fight to date—unfortunately, a losing effort at Bellator 130 by way of TKO to Daniel Gallemore.
Selmani is still just 22. If he were to leave WWE right now, a lot of the aspects of his multi-discipline background might come back like riding a bike.
4. Daniel Bryan (WWE Smackdown Live)
It’s highly unlikely that anything combat or WWE-related happens for Bryan Danielson ever again given that he and the former “Brie Bella” have married and now have a daughter on the way.
However, the current on-screen general manager of Smackdown Live and former American Dragon” indie darling has utilized MMA-style moves into his pro wrestling style. Danielson has had neck and concussion issues that forced him to retire from in-ring work but he has been cleared by multiple doctors outside of WWE.
WWE doctors will not clear him and that leads many to think when his deal is up, Danielson might head back to the indies. While the situation appears to be ongoing, Danielson has been training at the MMA Lab, home to former UFC champion “Smooth” Benson Henderson and previously, the famous Xtreme Cloture gym in Las Vegas.
Uproxx shared Henderson’s thoughts from a 2015 interview with Sporting News:
“He was out with some injuries in WWE,” Henderson said. “He came to our gym and moved up to blue belt in jiu-jitsu under my coach John Crouch. Every time I go in there, he’s working his butt off. I heard he was pretty strong and actually surprised me with how technical he is. A lot of guys have a hard time learning all those techniques. I heard he was really great at being able to use his technique and not relying on his strength. He’s smooth (ironic) and does jiu-jitsu really well.”
What could have been?
3. Honorable Mention: Shinsuke Nakamura (WWE Raw)
Given the martial arts-based “hard style” of Japanese pro wrestling, to be a star there, one has to be truly tough. Former NXT champion and newest roster member of Smackdown Live, Shinsuke Nakamura is just that. Now 37, Nakamura (a multiple-time IWGP pro wrestling champion, including a three-time king at heavyweight) fought for the legendary Pride FC in MMA and went 3-1 with one No Contest.
All of his wins were by finish due to submission.
2. Honorable Mention: Kurt Angle
The two-time 1996 Olympic gold medal winning-wrestler Kurt Angle famously won his medals “with a broken freakin’ neck” (a true-to-life fact.) He was a NCAA Division-I All-American (1990-1992) and a national champion (’90, ’92.) Angle is not only now a part of the WWE and TNA Wrestling Hall of Fame but also the USA Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Angle said to MMAFighting.com in 2015, “I've had meetings with them all in MMA, World Series (where he's still in talks about possibly doing a television commentary role), Elite XC, twice with UFC. Whether it was the money or the timing wasn't right, it didn't happen. I considered going until I turned 42.”
“I wouldn't even think about doing it now, unfortunately. I don't regret it. When I met with Dana White, he wanted me to quit wrestling entirely, but I had just signed with TNA (the No. 2 U.S. pro wrestling company). I met with Dana the same week and he said I needed to quit wrestling…”
Angle played a fighter in the 2011 film, Warrior.
1. Bobby Lashley
It’s a good thing former multiple-time WWE champion Bobby “The Dominator” Lashley left the WWE when he did in 2008. He still wrestles for Impact Wrestling (TNA) but gained much respect in the MMA world, going 15-2 thus far with 13 finishes (five wins via KO/TKO and eight by submission.)
Lashley is currently fighting for the number two promotion in the world, Bellator MMA. He is unbeaten at 5-0 (also all finishes, four KO/TKOs and two subs.) He should definitely be considered a heavyweight title contender in Bellator and the fact that he hasn’t gotten a title shot is dumbfounding.
The Colorado-based former NAIA wresling champion (and also a wrestler in the U.S. Army) has said that he only a has two to three years in both pro wrestling and MMA. One of the major reasons that Lashley is with Bellator is because Viacom owns the promotion and at one time owned TNA, allowing him to work for both organizations as he still does. Assuming his career in the squared circle ends before his career in the cage (and he doesn’t at least get to challenge for a Bellator belt,) a UFC run needs to happen!
Dana White initially told the media “No” regarding Lashley, but that was in 2009…