Last weekend, former UFC Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez debuted at TripleMania for the Mexican promotion AAA.
Velasquez was a decorated high school wrestler, but that doesn’t always mean a path down professional wrestling is the way to go, especially with combat sports evolving more and more. He was a fan of the industry since he was a child and had been to a few shows throughout his life, but it wasn’t expected that he would make an appearance inside the squared circle.
However, he gave a great account of himself, donning a fantastic luchador mask throughout his six-man tag match at TripleMania, and even busting out a hurricanrana. Velasquez ended up picking up the win for his team, submitting Texano Jr. with a Kimura lock, the most well-known move of the MMA/professional wrestling crossover after Brock Lesnar proceeded to “break” people’s arms with it upon his return to the WWE back in 2012.
MMA and professional wrestling have huge crossover value, as name-worthy fighters for the UFC are often linked with a move to professional wrestling once their fighting careers are over. Daniel Cormier and Conor McGregor are two people to have been strongly linked to making the switch, but as of yet have not seemed likely to do so in the near future.
Today we are going to look at five more interesting crossovers between MMA and professional wrestling, and you may even find some unexpected names on the list here.
5. Kid Kash
One of the lesser known men to try his hand in MMA, Kid Kash fought once as an amateur in 2008, and then as a professional in 2016. The latter bout did not go well for the former ECW TV champion and WWE Cruiserweight champion, as he was knocked out in 38 seconds to 22-year-old Lindsey Jones. Kash was 47 at the time of the fight, so it probably wasn’t the best time to try your hand in the professional fight game.
Kash has been in the professional wrestling industry for 30 years this October, and had his best singular run in any company with ECW, where he stayed from 1996 until the dissolution of the promotion in 2001. He has also been with TNA on two separate runs, and had a brief stint with the WWE from 2005-2006.
Kash still competes in professional wrestling to this day, showing up regularly on the independent circuit. On the day of publication of this article, he is scheduled to face former ECW colleague Tommy Dreamer at a Tried-n-Tru event in Tennessee, which also features meet and greets from Kevin Nash and The Shockmaster. There’s a sentence I never thought I’d say.
4. Tom Lawlor
Former MLW World Heavyweight champion Tom Lawlor was someone who started off in the professional fight game, as most people are aware. Lawlor was an eleven-fight UFC veteran, picking up wins against the likes of C.B. Dollaway and Ultimate Fighter season four winner, Patrick Côté. He was with the company for eight years, from his appearance on the eighth season of The Ultimate Fighter – where he lost to Ryan Bader – until March 2016. His record for the UFC stands at 6-5, but Lawlor was a highly respected competitor and has never lost a pro fight via KO.
What people may not know is that he actually worked as a pro wrestler for two years before his MMA career started, even having a tryout with the WWE. However, that was not to be and he transitioned into MMA.
Since joining the independent circuit, Lawlor has become one of the biggest names, feuding with the likes of Sami Callihan, Shane Strickland and Simon Gotch.
The only person to hold the new MLW championship longer than Lawlor was Low Ki, who Lawlor beat for his reign at the top of the mountain. He held it for 154 days before dropping it to Jacob Fatu.
3. Sonya Deville
Obviously not as well known for her performances in the Octagon as she is for her career inside the squared circle, Sonya Deville actually donned those gloves for three professional MMA fights, going 2-1 before she ever started working with WWE.
It has been well publicised in WWE that she is a martial arts expert, but you may not know that she has actually been training in combat sports for the best part of a decade, first training at the age of 16.
Deville has been incredibly busy since she started her MMA career. She competed in those three fights between October 2014 and March 2015, before joining up with WWE for Tough Enough in June of that year, and the rest is history.
Deville has shown over her time with the biggest promotion in professional wrestling that she can go, and her partnership with Mandy Rose is one of the best in the business. How they’ve been passed over for holding the Women’s Tag Team Championships is a travesty but surely, they will very soon. A feud between Fire and Desire and Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross would be gold.
2. Jushin “Thunder” Liger
This happened. I don’t know how or why, but Liger was involved in a singular MMA fight way back in 2002, and it didn’t go particularly well for “Thunder”.
Liger is obviously best known for his storied career inside the squared circle, competing all over the world for the best part of 35 years. It would turn out that the person he would fight in the Pancrase promotion would be somebody he would work with a lot in the years following the fight.
Liger was scheduled to face fellow pro wrestler Kensuke Sasaki in the match, but Sasaki pulled out due to injury. He was replaced by (I feel so sorry for Liger as I type this) Minoru Suzuki.
What followed was just what you may expect. Liger attempted to hit Suzuki with an abisegeri, which did not work, and Suzuki mauled the then 37-year-old Liger with ground and pound punches, before securing a rear-naked choke for the victory.
And yes, Liger did still wear his mask during the fight.
1. Santino Marella
Yes, the master of the Cobra move has also tried his hand at a life inside of the Octagon. I know it seems improbable, but Marella, real name Anthony Carelli, again competed just the one time before he realised that a career in MMA probably wasn’t for him.
Back in 2004, fighting under the name Joe Basko, Marella was another who took a quick L to an opponent, getting knocked out in just 26 seconds and calling that part of his life a day. Marella was already competing in the indies at that point and would sign with WWE just one year later. All clouds have a silver lining, I guess.
Marella is skilled in combat and has won competitions in judo before and after his professional wrestling career, and along with two others, currently runs the Battle Arts Academy which trains both MMA and professional wrestling.
I can certainly say I would pay the entrance fee and more to watch Marella try to hit the famous Cobra move in an MMA ring. So deadly, it’s probably illegal.
There we have it – five interesting crossovers between MMA and professional wrestling. This was a list where I learned a lot more writing it than I ever thought I may. Obviously, there are a ton of people who have successfully crossed over between the two – Brock Lesnar, Ronda Rousey, Bobby Lashley, Alberto Del Rio and Shayna Baszler just to name a few, with a lot more expected to try their hand at switching from the Octagon to the world of professional wrestling in the near future.
Do you have any other interesting crossovers we should have added to the list? Please drop a comment and let us know!
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