I am typing this up because I have seen a lot of post when referring to Brock Lesnar as a fake wrestling champion. As if this statement is to discredit the man, and his MMA career. The purpose is point out that it is a dumb statement, and has nothing to do with his MMA career. In fact you would be surprised by the amount of MMA fighters that started off as pro wrestlers, and switched over, or MMA fighters that spent time in pro wrestling at one point in their career. Here is a short list of successful fighters that started in pro wrestling.
1. Kazushi Sakuraba: Sakuraba started off in the UWFI after leaving Chuo University, and eventually making his way to Kingdom Pro Wrestling, before ever competing in MMA. Sakuraba holds notable wins over Brazilian Marcus Silveira, Vernon White, Carlos Newton, Vitor Belfort, Royler Gracie, Royce Gracie, Ryan Gracie, Quinton Jackson, Kevin Randleman, and Ken Shamrock. Sakuraba was given the name of The Gracie Hunter. MMA Record 42-13-1-1NC
2. Kazuyuki Fujita: A very decorated free style and Greco Roman wrestler winning the National Greco Roman wrestling nationals in Japan in 93-94. After he Started Wrestling for New Japan Pro Wrestling. Fujita stayed in the pro wrestling circuit until he started being mentored and trained in MMA by Antonio Inoki (another MMA figure that started out in Pro Wrestling) In 2000 Fujita entered Pride. He achieved notable wins over Mark Kerr, Ken Shamrock, and Gilbert Yvel. Fujita is probally most famous for his 2003 bout against Fedor Emelianeko which he had rocked and was close to finishing. Current MMA record 15-9
3. Ken Shamrock: Was a pro wrestler in Japan in the early 1990’s. He soon had the desire to have pro wrestling matches without a fixed outcome which became known today as hybrid wrestling. Shamrock first match under these new guide lines was against a kickboxing champion Don Nayaka Nielson, Shamrock took Neilson down and submitted him with an arm lock in just 45 seconds. Influenced by this new style two other pro wrestler Masakatsu Funaki, and Minoru Suzuki joined Ken in creating Pancrase. Ken was the first King of Pancrase, and was the UFC Super fight Champion 3 times, which later was crowned into the UFC Heavy Weight Championship. Ken holds notable wins over Funake, and Takahashi in Pancrase, Matt Hume, Bas Rutten twice, Dan Severn, and Kimo Leopoldo. Current MMA record 27-13-2.
4. Krzysztof Soszynski: Born in Stalowa Wola Poland, and moved to Canada at the age of ten. Krzysztof wrestled mostly smaller shows all over Canada before he ran into a man known as Bad News Brown a wrestling star from the 1980’s, and 1990’s. Krzysztof said “He showed me an arm bar kimura and I was immediately hooked. That’s when my mma dream started.” Krzysztof fought in various organizations such as IFL, Strikeforce, NFA, and ICC before finding his way onto season 8 of the Ultimate Fighter, which gave him his opportunity to arrive in the UFC. With notable victories over Tom Howard, Marcus Hicks, Shane Primm, Brian Stann, Andre Gusmao, and Stephan Bonnar. In Krzysztof 6 UFC fight he has garnered 2 submission of the night awards, and 1 fight of the night award. Current MMA record:21-10-1
5. Brock Lesnar: Is a very accomplished amateur wrestler. He attended the University of Minnesota, in 1999 he place second in the NCAA div 1 heavyweight wrestling tournament, losing to the NFL current offensive lineman of the New England Patriots Steven Neal. In 2000 Brock managed to win the div 1 heavyweight tournament. Right after graduating, Lesnar was approached by the WWE where he had a career of about 4 years, leaving the WWE in 2004. After Lesnar had a brief stint with the Minnesota Viking being the last man cut in training camp. Lesnar also wrestled for New Japan Pro Wrestling. Lesnar found his way into K1 where he had one fight before finally signing with the UFC in October 2007. Lesnar hold notable wins of Frank Mir, Heath Hearing, Randy Couture, and Shane Carwin. He is the current UFC HW champion with an overall MMA record of 5-1.
Antonio Inoki: Started wrestling as early as 1960 most famous for his hybrid MMA/wrestling match against Muhammad Ali. Inoki would go on to promote hybrid promotions with actual pro wrestling matches, and actual MMA fights on the same card. Inoki also became a mentor, and brought a lot of pro wrestler into MMA several of which flourished in Pride FC.
Nobuhiko Takada: In the pro wrestling world was well known for popularizing shoot wrestling. Takada competed in the UWF and the Union of Wrestling Force International in the 1980, and 1990’s. In the MMA world Takada is best known as the figure head of Pride FC an organization that many considered to be best greatest MMA organization to date, and is also the owner of Hustler Wrestling Organization.
Here are just a few examples of MMA fighter that started out as pro wrestlers to go on to have successful MMA career, there are more than I am probably aware of. To expand on the list of MMA fighters that were also had careers in pro wrestling include the following MMA alumni Dan Severn, Don Frye, Kiyoshi Tamura, Volk Han, Bob Sapp, Justin McCully, Masakatsu Funaki, Minoru Suzuki, Tsuyoshi Kohsaka, Ludvig Borga, Ikuhisa Minowa, Takanori Gomi, Mark Coleman, Kevin Randleman, Bobby Lashley, and Tito Ortiz.
As you can see Pro Wrestling can have a huge affect ones MMA career as far as exposure, and getting their big break, as well as opening up new opportunities for ones career, it also even gives them media skills. But what it does not do is tarnish ones MMA skills, or their careers for simply being affiliated in pro wrestling it should not be looked at as a negative but rather as a positive.