For many years there was a clear divide between the worlds of professional wrestling and mixed martial arts. A key reason is that professional wrestling is pre-determined, wins and losses don’t really mean anything, it is primarily for drama and entertainment purposes. Whereas, MMA is a legitimate combat sport and fighters walk into each fight knowing that a loss could do detrimental harm to their careers. Before 2006 nobody ever dreamed that a pro wrestler would take his chances in the world of MMA because they would surely get eaten alive.
Brock Lesnar had the world at his feet after being called up the main roster in 2002, he was dubbed ‘The Next Big Thing’ and tore his way through everyone he came up against, defeated the Rock at Summerslam to win the first of three WWE Championships. Then in 2004 he unexpectedly left the company after losing to Goldberg at WrestleMania XX. It soon became clear that Brock’s main reason for leaving was that he hated the travel (WWE Superstars spend more than 280 days a year on the road). After a brief spell wrestling in Japan and a failed NFL career, Lesnar announced his intention to compete in MMA. Everybody expected him to fail.
Dynamite USA in LA, California 2007 was the stage for Lesnar’s MMA debut and he stunned the 18,000 fans in attendance and a worldwide audience when he beat Min-Soo Kim within a minute of the first round. A UFC contract was waiting for Lesnar shortly after and he proved that he wasn’t a flash in the pan when he won the UFC Heavyweight Championship in 2008 from Randy Couture in his fourth professional fight. Lesnar held the title until 2010 and then retired from fighting in 2011. To this day Lesnar holds the record for the longest UFC Heavyweight Championship reign.
Lesnar’s success led to a new deal with WWE in 2012, his exposure from UFC earned him a lucrative part-time deal for big money. Over the past four years he has wrestled an average of four matches a year with minimal TV appearances to promote upcoming matches. When betting on WWE matches it is important to know that Brock Lesnar is booked differently to everybody else that works there. Most matches will feature an element of back and forth, twists and turns before an eventual winner. Brock Lesnar comes out dressed more like he would in UFC with fight shorts and padded gloves, unlike the traditional wrestling trunks he previously wore. At SummerSlam 2014 Brock defeated John Cena in 16 minutes to win his fourth WWE Championship in a match where Cena got in very little offense.
Another individual about to make the crossover is CM Punk (Phil Brooks) who walked out of WWE in early 2014. Then 11 months later he signed a multi-fight contract with UFC. Unlike Lesnar, Punk has no prior amateur experience and many critics expect him to lose his first fight within 30 seconds. Punk has been training for almost two years with Roufusport and is set to make his MMA debut against Mickey Gall at UFC 203. You can see Punk’s advances in training, as well as a glimpse into his personal life, in the four-part documentary series ‘Evolution of Punk’. At this point it is very difficult to predict if CM Punk will transition from WWE to UFC quite like Brock Lesnar has.
Dave Bautista (wrestled in WWE as Batista) worked in WWE between 2000-2010 where he was a 6-time World Champion and involved in a number of high-profile feuds with the biggest names like John Cena, Triple H, Randy Orton and CM Punk. After leaving WWE, Bautista too announced an interest in MMA. In late 2012 he faced veteran Vince Lucero at an event called ‘Classic Entertainment and Sports: Pain In Providence’. Bautista won his debut by TKO in the very first round but hasn’t fought again since. In 2014 he returned to WWE, won the Royal Rumble but left again six months later after he was unhappy with his storylines. Dave has since has enjoyed a successful movie career appearing in two Guardians of the Galaxy films and as Bond villain Mr Hinx in Spectre. He has left many fans wondering if he’ll ever compete in WWE or MMA ever again.