We all know about Brock Lesnar and his recent UFC career. You may also know about Batista and Bobby Lashley’s MMA experience, but did you know there are a handful of other professional wrestlers who competed in MMA? Some of you savvy wrestling fans may already know about these wrestlers, but there will be one or two in this list that will surprise you.
Bam Bam Bigelow (Record: 0-1)
Bam Bam Bigelow is touted as one of the greatest big men of all time. He could do it all in the ring, and had an athleticism that most big men only dreamed of. So, he put that athleticism to the test, and tried to compete in U-Japan.
Bigelow competed against Kimo Leopoldo on November 17th, 1996, and unfortunately got destroyed in his only MMA match. Bigelow submitted to a rear-naked in choke at the 2:15 mark of the fight. He claimed the match was fixed, but there was no evidence to support this. Here’s the footage for you to decide:
Jushin Thunder Liger (Record: 0-1)
The innovator of the Shooting Star Press, Jushin Liger is a living legend and one of the most revolutionary junior heavyweights of all time. He doesn’t seem a likely candidate to have a background in MMA, but Liger actually competed in Pancrase.
Jushin liger competed against Minoru Suzuki (from NJPW) IN Pancrase, on November 30th, 2002. Suzuki was a very experienced MMA fighter with a record of 29-20, and he unfortunately manhandled Liger in under 2 minutes (1:48 mark of the fight). Liger may have tapped out to a rear-naked choke, but at least he was able to keep his mask on throughout the match.
Alberto Del Rio (Record: 9-5)
Many of you know Del Rio as the two-time WWE Champion and two-time World Heavyweight Champion. He had a fantastic career in WWE, but he actually had an established career in MMA before that. Del Rio competed from 2001-2010 as a masked combatant named Dos Caras Jr. He’s also currently the president of Combate Americas.
For those of you unfamiliar with Combate Americas, it’s actually the first Hispanic MMA sports and media franchise. It was founded in August 2011 by UFC co-creator Campbell McLaren.
In Del Rio’s 9-year MMA career, he fought a total of 14 fights. He became a submission specialist, winning 7 fights by submission. His biggest fight was against Mirko ‘Cro Cop’ in Pride Bushido 1. Unfortunately, this was also Del Rio’s worst showing, as Cro Cop destroyed him in just 46 seconds. Despite that, Del Rio had a solid career in MMA and is definitely one of the legit tough guys in wrestling.
- Shinsuke Nakamura (Record: 3-1)
The most charismatic man in professional wrestling today, the King of Strong Style, Nakamura is a must-see talent in WWE, and I would highly recommend watching him if you haven’t already. What most people don’t know is that he debuted in MMA around the same time he debuted in professional wrestling. He fought for various promotions in the early 2000s, most notably in K-1.
Nakamura’s biggest MMA match was against Alexey Ignashov, in 2004 at K-1 MMA ROMANEX. Ignashov boasted an impressive kickboxing record of 85-21, but Nakamura was able to submit him in the second round. When you see the footage of Nakamura in K-1, it’s hard to think he’s the same person he is now. Despite having a short MMA career, I believe he would have had a successful one if he continued.
- Jack Gallagher (Record: 2-0)
The least imposing figure on this list, Gallagher is known for his comedic antics in the squared circle, and you can regularly find him jumping off the turnbuckle with an umbrella in his hand. I would have never guessed he had MMA experience unless someone told me. It is cool to think that the unassuming guy with the monopoly mustache can low-key whip some ass though. The experience gives him an extra aura of confidence that you can see in the ring.
Gallagher competed most recently in ICE FC 13 against Cesar Valencia, just last year. Gentlemen Jack showed promise in his amateur fight; he dominated Valencia and submitted him in the first round.
Not all professional wrestlers who jump to MMA have successful careers. There are guys who have one and done fights, and others who end up sticking it out for the long haul. Both forms of entertainment require immense training and physical prowess. Hopefully this list both informed you and gave you newfound respect for these athletes.