Back in 1993, the very first UFC competition somewhat resembled today’s gimmick-laden wrestling culture. Amateurish through it now appears by present-day standards, the eight-man tournament in which each fighter specialised in a single discipline – and wore attire that reflected it – broke new ground in professional combat sport. In realising the importance of groundwork, after BJJ expert Royce Gracie’s effortless outright win, UFC fighters now possess a more rounded set of skills. For that reason, along with the rampant growth of the WWE brand over the past twenty-five years, the present climate offers many opportunities for fighters to cross over between MMA and professional wrestling.
Where a successful transition from UFC to professional wrestling is concerned, Ken Shamrock – who was also a participant in UFC 1 – is a prime example. Though he was already an experienced pro-wrestler, Ken Shamrock would not make his WWE debut until 1997. One year later, he was crowned King of the Ring and soon characterised himself as ‘the most dangerous man in the world’ as he embarked on feuds with the luminaries of the WWE’s fondly-remembered ‘Attitude Era’. To truly become a successful, high-selling wrestler, one must boast an extreme sense of showmanship and, with that taken into account, several UFC fighters stand out as likely candidates to join the WWE in the coming years.
1. Conor McGregor
Lifelong WWE fan McGregor would undoubtedly prove a huge draw for Pay-Per-View (PPV) events such as Wrestlemania and the Royal Rumble. Since his expertise is consigned to the caged octagon he lacks the aerial prowess that would mark him out as a physical entertainer. However, trash talk and plotlines have been valued over action for as long as most wrestling fans can remember. As such, his brash persona would be well-suited to the sport. Additionally, the fact that he is now confirmed to box Floyd Mayweather on 24 September – and finding himself a 6/1 outsider with Paddy Power’s online betting system – is a strong hint of his desire to move on after being stripped of his UFC featherweight belt.
2. Tim Kennedy
Many wrestling fans would assert that the world is getting scarier, and that the perfect tonic would be to once more create an all-American persona who can effectively champion the values of liberty. Hulk Hogan did just that at the height of the first Gulf War during his ongoing feud with the Sergeant Slaughter, whose gimmick was that of an Iraqi ‘defector’. In becoming a WWE superstar, Green Beret Kennedy would be able to channel his real world experience of combat into the ring. Though only a middleweight, Kennedy’s superior military fitness and resilience in the octagon has won him many fans, and his draw potential for PPV events would likely surprise those who consider him too uncharismatic for the WWE.
The ‘Real American’ Hulk Hogan’s famous 1991 match with ‘Iraqi defector’ Sgt Slaughter – albeit in video game form. A similar gimmick could be expected from Tim Kennedy if he ever moved to the WWE.
3. Ronda Rousey
Sceptics would consider Rousey to be yesterday’s fighter, but even when nowhere near the octagon, her presence can be felt. Even cameo ringside appearances, for UFC and WWE, can raise the proverbial temperature of social media users. That can easily translate into bigger PPV sales in due course, and amongst Rousey’s more notorious ‘call-outs’ is her criticism of Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor, believing that they prioritise money above a passion for combat. Rousey is suitably opinionated and could be face or heel with equal ease.
So, there you have it; three fighters who have the fighting prowess (or the mouth) for WWE.