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15 Athletes From Other Sports Who Tried MMA

Johnnie Morton

Johnnie Morton

Johnnie Morton doesn’t like to be known for his losses. After being mocked by Jay Leno for the Detroit Lions’ winless streak, he said, "I got the d*mn monkey off my back, off Marty's back, and I want Jay Leno to kiss my a*s." Maybe that’s why many don’t know he tried his hand at MMA.

After leaving the NFL, Morton attempted to hold his own in the ring. While he did come out swinging (and we have to give him props for that), he took a brutal hit and was knocked out cold. He was put on a stretcher with a neck brace and was carried out. That was his one and only match. Morton and losses just don't mix. 

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Matt Mitrione

Matt Mitrione

Before getting into the MMA, Matt Mitrione made it to Purdue University on a football scholarship. Apparently, he wasn’t a star because he went undrafted in 2002 NFL draft. Still, he was good enough (sort of) for the New York Giants to offer him a contract. Then, he got a foot injury. The Giants ended up releasing him, so Mitrione began to bounce between teams, San Fran 49ers and Minnesota Vikings.

None of that worked out. Surprise! Mitrione trained in Shotokan Karate as a kid, so MMA was his new calling. He made his debut in 2010 by defeating Marcus Jones via knockout. Football didn’t pan out, but his MMA career has markings of something pretty good. Out of 21 matches, he’s won 13. In 2016, Mitrione signed to Bellator MMA.

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Brock Lesnar

Brock Lesnar

Brock Lesnar is a jack of many trades as far as sports are concerned. He’s most known for his wrestling career, where he’s earned quite a name for himself. In fact, he was one of the top paid WWE wrestlers in 2019, according to The Sportster. Since he was so successful there, he had a short career with the NFL, where he played for the Vikings.

Finally, Lesnar made his UFC debut in 2008, but he ended up losing his first match. Not a great start. From there, Lesnar's MMA career has been rocky. Between suspensions due to drug use and health issues, Lesnar hasn’t had a chance to fight many UFC matches, although he did win the UFC Heavyweight Championship in 2008. Unfortunately, Lesnar had to retire before he could even begin his MMA career, due to medical problems.  

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Kimbo Slice

Kimbo Slice

Kimbo Slice had to be on this list. In fact, he was probably the first athlete on your mind, right? Slice was a football player who played at the University of Miami. He had a tryout for the Dolphins but couldn’t secure a spot. Sports weren't really working out, but he still earned a name for himself by beating the snot out of people as a bouncer. We're sure all those fights were necessary (can you catch our sarcasm?).

Slice thought he was a shoo-in for MMA, considering the name he’d built as a bouncer. Except, there was only one problem: the competition was a lot better than drunk guys in a parking lot. Slice won his first fight against Ray Mercer, but the rest of his matches were more than dull.

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Greg Hardy

Greg Hardy

Greg Hardy is one of the many NFL players that wanted to fight it out in the ring. Hardy began playing as a defensive end for the Panthers, but he soon moved to the Cowboys as a free agent. After that – well, long story short, Hardy was suspended due to a domestic violence conviction and got arrested for possession of an illicit substance. Hardy was not signed back onto the Cowboys. 

After the possession charge, he decided it was time to move to MMA. Not everyone accepted him, especially after his first UFC fight ended with him being disqualified for an illegal knee. If Hardy can get his act together, he can definitely make a name for himself. His career is just starting and he’s already had five wins (out of six matches) under his belt.

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Sean O’Haire

Sean O’Haire

Sean O’Haire was a three-time WCW World Tag Team Champion, so it's an understatement to say that he didn’t have success in wrestling. In 2000, he was named Rookie of the Year by Wrestling Observer. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t be the case for MMA.

We all know that wrestling isn’t quite MMA. While he didn’t leave with a negative win/loss record, he didn’t have a good reputation. The most devastating loss was against Eric “Butterbean” Esch in 2006. Butterbean landed some hard hits on O’Haire’s head and the match ended in seconds.  

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Jose Canseco

Jose Canseco

Jose Canseco used to be a big name in baseball, having 462 career runs, an MVP, and a host of other accomplishments. Then, in 2005, he published a tell-all that destroyed his reputation. After that point, his name was synonymous with steroid use. Baseball was no longer an option.

That ruined reputation didn’t stop him from pursuing MMA in 2009. His first match lasted a total of 77 seconds. Canseco claimed his right knee was hurting, and he was unable to complete the match. After that, Canseco bailed on MMA and decided to try something else. MMA was too much.

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Herschel Walker

Herschel Walker

What can’t Herschel Walker do? Recently, Walker became the first player to gain 4,000 career yards in rushing, receiving, and kickoff returns, all at the age of 53. Overall, he’s been involved in the NFL (where he played for the Vikings, Eagles, and Giants), bobsledding, and MMA as of 2007.

When Walker decided to take on MMA, critics looked at it as a ridiculous attempt at a cash grab, but it was something he was passionate about. He played two matches (both of which he won), and now, he’s looking for a new matchup despite being well into his 50s. He truly is ageless.  

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James Toney

James Toney

James Toney is a strange one. He started his athletic career with boxing, and he did really well with a record of 77 wins and 10 losses. Eventually, he was even nicknamed “Lights Out” because of how many dudes he knocked out. Then, he tried MMA, and we all expected him to do just as good, but...

Things went another way. James Toney went up against Randy Couture, who beat him pretty easily. It was pretty obvious that it was a mismatch since Couture was a legend and Toney, while a legend in boxing, was still sporting a bit of a belly. Toney wasn’t prepared for Couture in the least bit. Since then, he hasn't given MMA another shot. 

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Marcus Jones

Marcus Jones

Marcus Jones started his career in football, and he was good at it. He played 85 games for the Tampa Buccaneers, starting 39 of them, and recording 24 sacks. After the Buccaneers, he was signed onto the Buffalo Bills, but a knee injury kept him on reserve. That wasn't enough for Jones.

That’s when Marcus Jones decided to give MMA a shot. He was picked to be a part of The Ultimate Fighter, but the problem was that he just wasn’t much of a threat. Not that he was terrible, but he eventually got knocked out by Matt Mitrione, another NFL-player-gone-MMA. All in all, Jones had four wins and two losses, and his MMA career was lackluster, to say the least. 

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Giant Silva

Giant Silva

Giant Silva is certainly a sight to behold. This 7’2”, 386-pound Brazilian started out as a basketball player but quickly moved over to wrestling in 1997. Unfortunately for him, that career didn’t last long either. The WWF released him in 1999 due to a lack of appeal and skill. He just couldn't carry a crowd. Silva's longest stint in a career was when he joined the New Japan Pro Wrestling from 2001 to 2008.

Silva’s MMA career started in 2003 by the now-defunct group Pride Fighting Championships. Like with wrestling, Silva stunk – and bad. He had a total of eight matches, and of those eight matches, he only won two. Those are not great odds.

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Ray Mercer

Ray Mercer

Ray Mercer could have been something – he coulda been a contender! When he was a professional boxer, he had an exceptional record of 36-7. In 1988, Mercer went on to win the heavyweight gold medal in the Summer Olympics as an amateur, then, he held the WBO heavyweight title from 1991 to 1992 as a professional.

When news broke that he would try MMA, fans were excited. It didn’t take long for him to gain notoriety, especially after a 2009 knockout victory against former UFC heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia after less than 10 seconds. Following this match, he went against Kimbo Slice and…well, he lost. That match-up and loss tarnished his name to the point where he quit MMA. You don't just lose to Kimbo Slice. 

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Bob Sapp

Bob Sapp

Nowadays, Bob Sapp may be best recognized for his role in The Longest Yard. He’s the guy that says, “he broked-ed my nose.” Before he was mispronouncing words in Adam Sandler movies, he was an NFL player, who was drafted by the Chicago Bears in 1997. Football didn’t really work out for him, so he went looking for another sport.

That’s when he found MMA. While we’d like to say that’s where he belonged, we can’t. Despite being a fan favorite, Sapp wasn’t much of a fighter. Out of 33 matches, he lost 20. Opponents could chalk up their match as a victory without having to ever step in the ring. That's a major oof

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Michael Westbrook

Michael Westbrook

Michael Westbrook is yet another NFL player that moved onto MMA! Before stepping into the Octagon, Westbrook was drafted by the NFL in 1995. Professionally, he played for the Redskins and Bengals, but he experienced a few injuries that forced him to retire.

That’s when he picked up MMA. Despite being moderately successful in football, MMA wasn’t his thing. Westbrook fought three times. One was a win, the second was a loss via TKO. The third was no contest because his opponent struck Westbrook in the groin. After that, Westbrook quit. Guess it was a hard knee.

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Eryk Anders

Eryk Anders

Could it be another football player gone MMA? It is! Eryk Anders is best known for his MMA career now, but he actually started in football. He played for the Crimson Tide as a linebacker before signing on as a free agent with the Cleveland Browns. While football worked out, he wanted something more out of his sporting career.

In 2012, Anders moved to MMA and gained quite a reputation. Out of 17 matches, Anders has won a total of 13, eight of those being via knockout. One of his most surprising matches was when he went against Brian White after signing onto Bellator. The match lasted a total of 23 seconds.

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