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Fighters who transitioned from MMA to pro wrestling

Fighting is one of the few professional sports which have genuinely transferable skills. This is especially true when you consider MMA. MMA already consists of mixed martial arts, which means people can use whatever fighting skill they have, to compete.

It’s not a surprise to learn that many fighters crossover into other rings and even become successful in their new positions.

Here are just a few of the best MMA fighters that transitioned into Professional Wrestlers.

Ronda Rousey

Ronda Rousey is a powerhouse. Wherever you took a peek at the UFC odds, you would see her up at the top of the rankings as everyone knew she would beat all of her opponents.

Nearing the end of her UFC career, Rousey was a judo Olympia, a Strikeforce Champion, and a Bantamweight Champion – an accomplishment she easily defended 6 times.

As everything was going super smoothly for her, Rousey decided to ditch the UFC and instead join the WWE.

In her new role as a wrestler, Rousey instantly made history becoming the first woman to star as the main event in Wrestlemania. As you can expect it wasn’t long before Rousey became a champion in the WWE too.

Dan Severn

Serven was one of the few fighters to become a professional wrestler and join the UFC in the same year. You cannot say that Serven was more of one fighter than the other, as even in training he studied free-style wrestling, jiu-jitsu, and judo.

In 1994, he joined both professional leagues. In the UFC he made it to the finals but lost to the legendary Royce Gracie. He was invited to participate in the first-ever UFC Superfight, and again he lost but this time against Ken Shamrock.

It was a time without divisions or weight classes, so the fact that he could hang on so long is an achievement in itself.

In the NWA, Severn became a two-time heavyweight champion and a legend in his own right. Severn ended his career in both the NWA Hall of Fame and the UFC Hall of Fame too.

Matt Riddle

In his first stint in the Ultimate Fighter ring, Riddle knocked out his opponent in just 9 seconds during the second round. He didn’t win the tournament but the skills he showed were enough to sign him into the UFC.

In his time with the UFC he bounced from win to loss to win to loss, but the real kicker was when he tested positive for cannabis use.

The UFC kicked him off the roster when the second test came back as a failure too. Searching for another path, Riddle turned to the WWE and NXT.

In recent years Riddle has managed to push for the championships winning more and more tournaments than he ever did in the UFC.

Junior Dos Santos

In the UFC, Santos has dominated as a heavyweight champion. He has created a world-famous gym that houses the MMA stars. But with success coming so easily, Santos started looking for a new challenge. That’s when he turned to pro wrestling.

His wrestling career only started in 2021 when he joined All Elite Wrestling, but so far he hasn’t done anything significant.

In the UFC he was a heavyweight champion and to this day he has the longest winning streak in the heavyweight division.

Give this man more time, and we expect big things to come from the new wrestling fighter.

Shayna Baszler

Baszler started off her career as a Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighter. She entered the MMA in 2006 and lost her first fight in a KO third-round display.

It didn’t take her long to find her feet though. In 2013 she teamed up with Ronda Rousey in the Team Rousey vs Team Tate fight. There she won against Colleen Schneider in the first round.

In her MMA career, Baszler was the Bantamweight Champion for Freestyle Cage Fighting, but when she made the switch to professional wrestling, that’s when the real medals started rolling in.

Baszler was the IndyGurlz Australian Champion, the Premier Women’s Champion, the NXT Women’s Champion, and the Absolute Intense Champion. Although Baszler started in MMA, it’s clear her real talent was in pro wrestling.

Josh Barnett

Barnett is the Hollywood movie version of a fighter. His bloody fisted beginning started in school when he would often get into trouble, fighting.

To control his anger, Barnett was encouraged to take up wrestling and judo, which he ended up excelling in.

His school encouraged him to take up classes outside of lessons, but he didn’t have the money. So just like a movie script, he worked as a maintenance janitor in exchange for lessons.

All of this pushed him towards the UFC where he ended up winning the Heavyweight Championship, the Pancrase Open Weight Championship, and the SuperBrawl 13 Heavyweight Tournament. Eventually landing in the Hall of Fame.

On to his next adventure, Barnett became a professional wrestler, starting in the NJPW where he eventually became the IWGP Heavyweight champion.

Summary

All of these amazing fighters dominated in their divisions of MMA. In a sport where you can branch off into so many directions, it has been fantastic to watch them all continue their success in Pro Wrestling too.

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