With CM Punk set to debut in the UFC this Saturday at UFC 203, it’s hard not to think about the WWE’s roster and wonder which wrestlers could, in fact, make a real go of it in the Octagon. We’ve seen plenty of guys cross over and cross back like Ken Shamrock, Dan Severn and Brock Lesnar, but which guys haven’t fought in the UFC, and could have success? Let’s name a few…
Note- This is looking at wrestlers that are on the WWE or NXT rosters today that have not yet fought in the UFC. We won’t stretch this by bringing up Brock Lesnar or fantasize about somebody like Kurt Angle if he had gone into the UFC instead of the WWE.
Japanese professional wrestling is different from American professional wrestling. While American wrestling includes body builders and fitness models, Japanese puroresu involves legitimate catch wrestlers and judoka. New Japan Pro Wrestling veteran Shinsuke Nakamura is the perfect example of that. The former IWGP heavyweight and intercontinental champion trained at the NJPW Dojo alongside a number of mixed martial artists (including the likes of Lyoto machida) and has worked with a number of shooters including Brock Lesnar, Yoshihiro Takayama and Kazushi Sakuraba.
He actually had a run in MMA, too, amassing a 3-1 (1) record with wins over former K-1 kickboxers Jan Nortje and Alexey Ignashov, as well as Pride fighter Daniel Gracie.
Former NXT tag team champion Chad Gable, real name Charles Betts, isn’t an especially big name at this point, but he’s a familiar name to anyone that follows “real” wrestling. Gable won the Minnesota high school state championship and had a solid NCAA run in North Michigan University. He went on to the Team USA Olympic Trials, and actually worked his way to the 2012 London Games in freestyle wrestling.
While he didn’t make it deep into the games, washing out fairly early, he is still a more accomplished wrestler than nearly anyone on the UFC roster. There’s no reason to think he couldn’t dominate some helpless middleweights in the Octagon.
Chad Gable’s tag team partner Jason Jordan, real name Nathan Everhart, is no slouch on the mat, either. While he didn’t work his way into the Olympics like Gable did, he is one of the best wrestlers in Indiana University history and was one of the best heavyweight wrestlers in NCAA Division I during his time, posting an undefeated 35-0 record in his senior year.
On top of that, he’s a legitimate athlete and was a three-sport athlete in high school. He’s big, strong, and a gifted wrestler, and could definitely step into the Octagon and post wins today.
Alberto Del Rio
Not many MMA fans know the name Alberto Del Rio (except for the ones that also watch WWE). But some might remember Dos Caras, Jr., the masked luchador that fought Mirko Cro Cop in Pride. While that (possibly worked) fight and run in Japan made Del Rio look terrible, when he joined the Latin American regional circuit, he was generally excellent, amassing a 6-1 record with all his wins coming via stoppage.
While Del Rio is known for his work in the ring, he initially followed in his father’s footsteps on the mats. He remains one of the best Greco-Roman wrestlers in Mexico’s history, taking third at the 1997 World Junior Championships, three first-place finishes in the Central American and Caribbean Games and first at the 1999 Pan American Games. He could have competed in the 2000 Olympics against the likes of Rulon Gardner and Aleksandr Karelin, but Mexico didn’t bother sending a wrestling team that year. What a shame…
Baron Corbin is hated by WWE fans because of his NXT run where his entire character revolved around telling fans that wrestling is stupid. But you know what? Corbin is such a scary dude that he can say whatever he wants.
While Corbin is looked at as a big, strong dude, he is actually a lot more. He’s a great athlete, actually making it into the NFL for three seasons as a practice squad member for the Indianapolis Colts and Arizona Cardinals. After football, he went into boxing, winning two Golden Gloves championships before making his way to pro wrestling. While he doesn’t have the grappling background of other guys on this list, he has the size, punching power and athleticism to rough up an old, fat heavyweight division.
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