5 athletes that crossed over to MMA

Profile Picture: Danny Howard

September 16th, 2020

Most MMA fighters spend their entire careers perfecting their technique and conditioning for a chance at stardom, but there are instances where athletes from other sports look to make their mark in mixed martial arts for one reason or another. Some do it for glory, while others did it for the payday.

Join us now as we looks at five superstar athletes that crossed over to MMA.

Greg Hardy

When a domestic violence case put the brakes on his NFL career in 2015, the former Carolina Panthers defensive end found returning to the NFL problematic, so he entered the MMA world instead.

Hardy’s athleticism and built-in hype from his NFL career led to him earning a contract with the UFC, where he currently competes in the heavyweight division with a respectable 6-2 record. While Hardy may have hit his developmental ceiling and relies too much on his athleticism, he is still a featured attraction for the promotion.

Herschel Walker

During his football days, Walker was a dynamo who amassed over 18,000 yards in rushing, receiving, and kick returns, but he was far more than just a gridiron star. His extracurricular activities away from football included being an Olympic bobsledder and a fifth-degree black belt practitioner in Tae Kwon Do. Determined to compete in mixed martial arts, Walker started training for an MMA fight, and In 2009, signed with Strikeforce. He won both of his fights by knockout against nominal foes before calling it a career.

Bobby Lashley

After stints in both the WWE and TNA, Lashley decided to take his amateur wrestling experience with him to the MMA circuit from 2008-to-2016, competing in smaller promotions up until a run with Bellator in 2014. While Lashley did not garner the universal acclaim another wrestler-turned-MMA fighter who’ll show up later on this list received, he was extremely competent in the cage. Of Lashey’s 15 wins, all but three victories came by knockout or submission.

Jose Canseco

When it comes to Jose Canseco, there is no act too shameful if it comes with a paycheck. The disgraced slugger has done it all after retiring from active competition in 2002, and despite his massive size and claims of possessing a black belt in karate and being an "expert with nunchucks," Canseco’s big mouth wrote a check his butt couldn’t cash in 2009. Invited as part of an MMA tournament, Canseco was manhandled by Choi Hong-Man in less than a round, citing a knee injury before putting his MMA aspirations on permanent hold.

Brock Lesnar

Brock Lesnar took his intimidating presence and marketability to the UFC in 2008 after many years as a WWE superstar. In just three fights, Lesnar claimed the heavyweight title from Randy Couture and became the biggest star in the promotion’s history. Lesnar’s on-and-off again relationship with the WWE always begs speculation when he’ll return to the UFC, and even years after his last performance of consequence, he’s still the biggest attraction linked to the sport.