In recent years, we have seen a lot of big-name pro wrestlers try their hand at mixed martial arts and vice versa. There are some similar requirements for success in both worlds – such as being in peak physical condition and possessing a high pain tolerance – so some crossover is to be expected.
While plenty of sports entertainers have at least dabbled in MMA, not all have been successful. With that in mind, we are going to take a look at 5 wrestlers who had success in the cage and 5 who had a rough go of it. Some of these folks made a name for themselves in WWE before stepping into the cage, while others signed with WWE after a lengthy career in combat sports.
10 Success: Brock Lesnar
Brock Lesnar is one of WWE’s biggest stars and a former 6-time world champ. The 41-year-old former collegiate wrestling standout has been successful in just about all of his athletic endeavors and is one of the greatest combat sports athletes of his generation.
The 6-foot-3, 265-pound behemoth is easily one of the most accomplished fighters on our list. He is a former UFC Heavyweight Champion who has wins over legendary fighters like Randy Couture and Frank Mir. Lesnar finished his career with a professional record of 5-3 (1). The former champ fought nothing but top-tier talent throughout his UFC run and still managed to capture a title and finish his career with a winning record. However, it should be noted that Lesnar failed a drug test, which has made him something of a polarizing figure in the sport.
9 Struggled: CM Punk
During his time in WWE, CM Punk established himself as one of the best talkers in the game. The now 40-year-old Chicago native was also known for being a very good in-ring performer, which helped him become one of the company’s biggest draws and a world champion on more than one occasion.
CM Punk began his MMA journey in his late 30s with almost no combat sports experience. However, he was already a star from a stint in WWE, which prompted the UFC to give a couple of fights. His fights generated plenty of interest, but Punk looked to be in over his head in both bouts and ended his UFC run with an 0-2 record.
8 Success: Ronda Rousey
Though she hasn’t been with WWE long, Ronda Rousey has already made quite a name for herself in the world of sports entertainment. After signing with the company in late 2017, the former Olympian has already had a lengthy run as WWE Raw Women’s Champ and even headlined this past WrestleMania.
As the first woman (along with Liz Carmouche) to fight in the UFC, Rousey is considered a pioneer in women’s MMA. She is former UFC Bantamweight Champion who defended her title multiple times and finished off most of her opponents in the very first round. She is easily the most successful fighter on our list and one of the biggest stars in all of combat sports.
7 Struggled: Bam Bam Bigelow
The late, great Bam Bam Bigelow was a Super-heavyweight who was known for his remarkable agility. The 390-pounder out of Asbury Park, New Jersey is best remembered for headlining WrestleMania XI in a match with NFL Legend Lawrence Taylor. He also had an outstanding run with ECW in the late '90s and even captured the company’s version of the world title.
Many fans probably didn’t even know that Bigelow dabbled in MMA. However, he did have a single pro fight back in 1996 against former UFC star Kimo Leopoldo. Leopoldo ended up taking the big man down with relative ease and choking him out in the first round.
6 Success: Bobby Lashley
Bobby Lashley is a talented performer who has had success in both WWE and TNA Wrestling. The 6-foot-3 standout is a 4-time TNA/Impact World Champion, ECW World Champion, and recently held the WWE Intercontinental Championship for the second time.
The Junction City, Kansas product has also quietly had a very good mixed martial arts career. He competed in some of the sport's top promotion including Strikeforce and Bellator. In fact, Lashley has a perfect 5-0 record in Bellator and has finished all 5 of his opponents. The former college wrestler's pro record currently stands at 15-2 with wins over notable fighters like Bob Sapp and James Thompson.
5 Struggled: Ludvig Borga
Ludvig Borga (aka Tony Halme) was a Finnish pro wrestler who is best remembered for his stint with World Wrestling Entertainment from 1993 to 1994. During that span, his most noteworthy feud was with “Made in the USA” Lex Luger, whom the company was trying to position as their top star at the time. The near-300 pounder suffered an injury in 1994 and left the company shortly after.
Following his departure from WWE, Borga participated in 5 professional MMA bouts. He even took on the Legendary Randy Couture at UFC 13 but lost the fight in just 56 seconds via rear-naked choke. The Helsinki product finished his pro MMA career with a 1-4 record.
4 Success: Shayna Baszler
Since debuting with the company back in 2017, Shayna Baszler has gone on to become one of the best in-ring performers on the NXT roster. She made history by becoming the first woman to win the NXT Women’s Championship twice and is currently in the midst of her second reign.
Prior to training as a pro wrestler, Baszler had a long and successful career in MMA that spanned from 2003 to 2017. The UFC veteran and women’s MMA pioneer has notable victories over standouts like Alexis Davis, Roxanne Modafferi, and Julie Kedzie. She has also shared the cage with the likes of Amanda Nunes and Cris Cyborg. Baszler fought the best of the best and finished her career with a respectable 15-11 record.
3 Struggled: Giant Silva
At 7-foot-2, Giant Silva (aka Paulo Cesar da Silva) is one of the tallest men to ever set foot in a WWE ring. The 386-pound Brazilian worked for World Wrestling Entertainment from 1998 to 1999. He was a member of the carnival-inspired faction known as the Oddities, an act associated with Insane Clown Posse. While he had little success in WWE, Silva made a solid run with New Japan Wrestling in the 2000s.
The big man also had a total of 8 MMA fights in promotions like Pride and K-1. However, he didn’t have much success as a mixed martial artist. Silva ended his career with 2-6 professional record – though he did win his last fight against the famous sumo wrestler, Akebono Taro.
2 Success: Matt Riddle
The “Original Bro” Matt Riddle has taken NXT by storm since arriving in the promotion back in 2018. He has competed for the NXT North American Championship, and his matches (particularly with the Velveteen Dream) have received rave reviews from fans and critics alike.
Before becoming one of the world’s most popular bros, Riddle had a very noteworthy run in the UFC. In fact, he had an outstanding 8-3 (2) record as a pro fighter. Moreover, his 2 no contests were originally victories that were overturned due to failed drug tests (marijuana). However, due to the failed tests, he was released from the UFC.
1 Struggled: Jessamyn Duke
In May of 2018, Jessamyn Duke signed a contract with WWE and has since become a fixture on NXT television. The 5-foot-11 starlet out of Whitesburg, Kentucky often competes in tag matches with her partner Maria Shafir. Duke is part of all-female wrestling stable known as the Four Horsewomen, which also includes Shafir, Shayna Baszler, and Ronda Rousey.
Prior to her NXT run, Jessamyn Duke had a memorable MMA career, having fought in promotions like the UFC and Invicta. However, despite showing promise at times, wins were hard to come by for the Kentucky native. At present, her pro record stands at 3-5 (1).