Former WWE star Jake Hager more commonly known by his ring name, Jack Swagger, recently announced his intention to try his hands at MMA by signing with Bellator.
Hager has no previous fighting experience although he does have a background in college wrestling and he isn’t the first pro wrestler to swap the ring for the cage.
We explore some of the good and bad who have tried before him.
The most famous wrestler to make the switch to MMA is, of course, Brock Lesner. At the time Lesner was a star attraction for the WWE and it was a huge coup for the UFC getting Lesner on board.
Lesner didn’t come into the octagon completely unskilled; he had a distinguished wrestling background and it also helped that he was built like a shed.
Although his UFC debut didn’t go his way; tapping to Frank Mir after just ninety seconds of action, he bounced back to claim the heavyweight championship in just his fourth professional fight.
Lesner suffered a well-documented battle with diverticulitis that hampered his MMA career; forcing him to only fight four more times over a three year period.
He hung up his gloves in late 2011 before re-lacing them one last time to save UFC 200 by taking on Mark Hunt. Although Lesner was awarded the win on the night that decision was then overturned to a no contest due to a failed drug test.
He has since officially retired from MMA.
Phil Brooks AKA CM Punk
One of the most high profile ex-WWE stars to deflect to the UFC was Phil Brooks, better known as CM Punk.
He signed a deal with promotion in 2014 but injuries pushed his debut back to December 2016. Punk was guided under the tutelage of top trainer Duke Roufus, who had turned Anthony “Showtime” Pettis into a lightweight champion.
Unfortunately, all the training in the world couldn’t prepare CM Punk for Mickey Gall taking him down and choking him out only two minutes into the first round of their meeting.
A year later and there has yet to be an announcement on another potential outing for the former WWE champion.
One of the more successful stories of late is of a wrestler known as Bobby Lashley.
After a relatively successful stint as a wrestler, Lashley transitioned to mixed martial arts and quickly went 5-0; including notching a victory over Bob Sapp.
After jumping from promotion to promotion, Lashley finally settled with Bellator where he is currently undefeated in five fights as a heavyweight.
As well as competing in MMA, Lashley also splits his time wrestling for Impact Wrestling. Not bad for someone who recently celebrated his 41st birthday.
Alberto Del Rio
José Alberto Rodríguez is best-known for being WWE superstar Alberto Del Rio but prior to his high flying antics in pro wrestling; Del Rio was a successful mixed martial artist.
Fighting under the name ‘Dos Caras Jr’ he established a reputation as a submission specialist.
His most notable fight came against Pride legend Mirko Cro Cop, a fight in which he only lasted 46 seconds. Del Rio retired from MMA in 2010 with a record of 9-5 to focus on his career as a wrestler.
Ken Shamrock is a pioneer of mixed martial arts and he will be fondly remembered by fans during the ‘Attitude’ era. Dubbed the ‘World’s Most Dangerous Man’ Shamrock appeared at UFC 1 losing to eventual winner Royce Gracie.
From there, Shamrock had a successful stint as a wrestler before once again returning to the cage to forge a bitter rivalry with Tito Ortiz.
After spending several years alternating between retirements and having one more fight, Shamrock then agreed to a rematch with Royce Gracie at Bellator 149. Gracie once again came out victorious and Shamrock hasn’t fought since.
Ed Larkin, Pundit Arena