Traditionally, athletes have changed their sports to try something new. It happened a lot before the 20th century when sports were less commercialized.
The world of fighting sports can be one in which athletes crossover from one sport to another. This happens for various reasons: some may want to test themselves in other disciplines and prove their dominance across the board.
In the UFC’s nearly three decades of existence, there have been many crossover stars that have tried their hand at Pro Wrestling. Here are some of the individuals who shifted to the world of pro wrestling.
Before Brock Lesnar became a UFC heavyweight champion, he competed in and dominated the world of collegiate wrestling. Lesnar, who represented the University of Minnesota in wrestling, became NCAA heavyweight champion in his senior year, echoing Olympic gold medalist Kurt Angle’s path in combat sports; who he defeated at WrestleMania 19 for the WWE Championship.
#TBT to 2002 … Advocating for the Reigning Defending Undisputed @WWE Heavyweight Champion of the World @BrockLesnar. 18 years later, we're still on top. Still hold the gold. And still headed to the main event of @WrestleMania! pic.twitter.com/QGDX7uJXpT
— Paul Heyman (@HeymanHustle) April 2, 2020
In 2008, Lesnar quit wrestling and tried his hand in the more diverse environment of mixed martial arts. After losing his debut fight to Frank Mir, he defeated Randy Couture to become the UFC heavyweight champion in his third fight.
As we know, he has since returned to the WWE and has become an even bigger star than his original push and his experience in the UFC. While he only appears to be a part-time performer, there is no denying that he still holds the same star appeal that he did when he first arrived as a young man.
In 2011, the UFC made headlines by purchasing the promotion Strikeforce, home to several elite fighters and champions such as Ronda Rousey. The most important story of the purchase was that for the first time in Ultimate Fighting Championship history, women would finally have the chance to compete in UFC.
Rousey’s dominance in the UFC was unrivaled, as she successfully defended her title six times. In fact, during her time in the sport, she was always heavily favored by those searching for UFC odds to take advantage of, as she was always a surefire bet for many to come out victorious whenever she entered the octagon.
Of course, we know that this did not last long, though, as the Australian decided to hang up her gloves and retire from MMA before signing a full-time contract with the WWE, where she has become a key part of the wrestling promotion and perhaps a driver in helping to further push women’s wrestling.
Matt Riddle got the chance to compete in the seventh season of “The Ultimate Fighter” when he was just 22 years old. He had an impressive debut, winning his first fight nine seconds into the second round. Riddle beat Dante Rivera unanimously in his debut for UFC after being signed, winning four of the next five fights he had for the promotion.
Riddle looked to a career in professional wrestling and started training in 2014 as he looked for new opportunities, and following more than four years of competing on the independent circuit, the star finally reached his goal of breaking into the WWE, where he has been receiving a number of pushes, including one alongside one of the biggest stars to have existed in professional wrestling, Randy Orton.
Paige VanZant showcased her talent in her octagon debut, beating Kailin Curran by TKO in the third round. Rose Namajunas snapped VanZant’s four-fight win streak in December 2015.
She subsequently became one of the biggest names in the sport, but as recently as 2021, she decided to try her hand at professional wrestling after signing with AEW and competing for them on regular basis, having only recently made her debut with the company at May’s Double or Nothing event in 2022 as part of American Top Team alongside Ethan Page and Scorpio Sky.
The world of pro wrestling is filled with stars who are familiar faces to UFC fans. The above stars are the top UFC fighters who switched to pro wrestling after retiring or being forced out of their sport. Most of them have had success, whereas others have struggled to find their footing in the world of sports entertainment.