IT was announced at mixed martial arts event UFC 181 that former professional wrestler CM Punk had signed onto the promotion and was making the jump from running the ropes in WWE, to taking part in cage-fighting inside the octagon.
Punk, who is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu enthusiast, is expected to be making his Ultimate Fighting Championship debut in around six-seven months, according to UFC President Dana White.
But while this move has sent shockwaves around both the professional wrestling and MMA worlds, this is by no means a first.
We’ll be looking at five other wrestlers that traded the ring for the cage…
1. Brock Lesnar
Arguably the most prolific example of someone to have fought in both worlds, Brock Lesnar had reigned supreme in World Wrestling Entertainment, having been a three-time WWE Champion. After leaving the company in 2004, he tried the likes of American Football but felt that he had found his calling when he announced his interest in competing in a mixed-martial arts league in Japan. Having won his first match, Lesnar joined the UFC to fight the biggest and baddest heavyweights in the company. Despite losing his first match to Frank Mir, Lesnar went on to conquer the heavyweight division which led to him defeating MMA legend Randy Couture to become UFC Heavyweight Champion less than a year after he joined the company. Lesnar went on to hold the championship for 700 days before losing it to Cain Velasquez. Eventually, Lesnar left the octagon and would later return to WWE in 2012 to once again prove himself to be the top dog in the ring. Lesnar currently reigns as WWE World Heayvweight Champion but Lesnar will go down in history to be the only man to have held both heavyweight titles in WWE and UFC.
2. Dave Batista
Before he went onto the save the galaxy in Guardians of the Galaxy this year, Dave Batista climbed to the top of the food chain in the WWE in 2005 defeating Triple H for the World Heavyweight Championship at Wrestlemania 21. Batista won multiple world titles at the company before leaving the company in 2010, having been upset with the way it was heading creatively. Seeing Lesnar succeed in the octagon, Batista began training for the Mixed Martial Arts world. Batista had become a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and had agreed a deal with UFC rivals Strikeforce. However, the deal went through when Strikeforce were bought out by Zuffa. A date was eventually set for Batista’s debut, despite many setbacks including his original opponent being ruled out after a probation landed him in jail! Batista defeated veteran fighter Vince Lucero four minutes in the first round in October 2012 in his first and only mixed martial arts fight. He eventually embarked a career as an actor while also returning to the WWE in 2014 to win the Royal Rumble and headline Wrestlemania 30.
3. Ken Shamrock
Nicknamed “The World’s Most Dangerous Man”, Ken Shamrock was a legend in UFC. Having headlined fifteen events and being in the UFC Hall Of Fame, Shamrock built a reputation as one of the hardest men in the world being a UFC Superfight Champion. Ken even holds the record for the longest fight in UFC history, once having a fight last 36 minutes! However, after the ninth event Senator John McCain was able to have UFC pulled for numerous cable systems which put the league in danger. Shamrock left the company to peruse a career in the World Wrestling Federation. Having debuted by referring a match between Bret Hart and Stone Cold Steve Austin at Wrestlemania 13, Shamrock ruled the ring – literally! Ken Shamrock won the very prestigious King Of The Ring event, and had won the Intercontinental and Tag Team titles before returning to UFC for one last stint. Despite never winning the WWF Title, Ken made quite a name for himself in the professional wrestling industry!
4. Bobby Lashley
Bobby Lashley soared up the WWE ranks right after he debuted in 2005. With an impressive amateur wrestling background, Lashley was hugely successful in the ring. He had won the United States and ECW World titles during his run in World Wrestling Entertainment, and almost won the WWE Championship. However, disputes over storylines involving his wife led to him leaving the company. After wrestling for Total Nonstop Action (TNA) wrestling, he too perused a career in MMA. Lashley’s fought for a number of mixed martial arts leagues and won a number of MMA heavyweight titles. He’s established a 12-2 record in MMA and is far from done in MMA. Earlier on this year, he had resigned with TNA as a professional wrestler. A few months later, he signed onto MMA promotion Bellator, meaning Lashley would have juggle both MMA and professional wrestling at the same time! Ever since signing for both companies, he’s won his first two Bellator fights so far and won the TNA World Heavyweight Championship in June. I think it’s safe to say he’s handling it just fine!
5. Alberto Del Rio
Long before joining WWE, Dos Caras, Jr. began his professional wrestling career. While training, he tried his hand in mixed martial arts as well. He started off well in the sport – breaking his opponent’s arm in his first fight! A couple of years later, the Pride promotion put out a challenge to anyone to fight their top fighter Mikro “Cro Cop” Filipovic. Out of the 50+ fighters that stepped up, Dos Caras was chosen for a number of reasons, one in particular being due to his father’s connections with professional wrestling. However, there was no Cinderella story here as Dos Caras was beaten in 46 seconds. He continued to fight, at one point winning six fights in a row. However, Dos Caras gave up his MMA days for good after signing with the WWE. Now referred to as “Alberto Del Rio”, he became a star in the WWE. Del Rio went on to win four World titles in WWE, including being the only man to win a 40 man Royal Rumble. However, an incident with another employee led to Del Rio’s release in August. Del Rio returned to Mexico with professional wrestling company Asistencia Asesoría y Administración (AAA) under the new ring name El Patrón Alberto and began fighting for their AAA Heavyweight Championship.