WWE guys cannot rely on physicality alone if they wanted to transition away from pro wrestling and compete in mixed martial arts.Few athletes have had crossover success, and while Brock Lesnar left the WWE as a champion to reign as a champ in the UFC, CM Punk left with the same status only to be humbled when the fighting was real.Two former UFC champions, Chuck Liddell and Luke Rockhold, recently told Insider that strength is no substitute for technical fighting ability — even if you’re The Rock.Liddell and Rockhold both feature in a May 16 movie — “Cagefighter: World’s Collide” — which merges the pro wrestling and MMA worlds.Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The reason the majority of WWE wrestlers would fail in the UFC is because their physicality does not match their technical fighting ability.That is the opinion of two former UFC champions Chuck Liddell and Luke Rockhold, who spoke to Insider ahead of the release of the Fite TV film “Cagefighter: World’s Collide” on May 16.Liddell and Rockhold both feature in the movie, assuming familiar roles of fight experts albeit in a coaching capacity, rather than as combatants.The film merges the pro wrestling and cage-fighting industries — an area an increasing number of athletes have dabbled in, with various degrees of success.
Brock Lesnar left the WWE as a heavyweight champion to compete as a mixed martial artist, was fast-tracked into the UFC, and became the leading MMA firm’s heavyweight champion after only four fights.But while there’s a Lesnar, there’s also a CM Punk, who left the pro wrestling business as a long-reigning WWE champion, only to be resoundingly beaten, twice, in the UFC.To ensure crossover success, Rockhold said a collegiate wrestling background is essential as it is the toughest fighting discipline. “Some of them do come from wrestling backgrounds and wrestling, as we know, is the toughest of all martial arts.”It’s a different kind of discipline and toughness that you can’t teach in other realms — to just beat you down and nothing else.
“So a lot of those guys do come from heavy wrestling backgrounds. With that respect, I’d give them a chance. It works for that.”There’s a wild difference between someone like Lesnar, who had that collegiate wrestling background and, say, The Rock, who is arguably the WWE’s most famous face but wouldn’t actually know how to fight.”They would have to pick his opponent really well,” Liddell told Insider. “I mean, he’s an athlete, plays football, and in shape but doesn’t really know how to fight.”Liddell said: “The guy’s who have had success coming over have [into UFC] had really good wrestling backgrounds.
“CM Punk, the guy’s coaching him did him a disservice … he was terrible. He wanted to fight but should have gone to a local show. The second guy he fought [Mike Jackson], insulted me more than the first guy [Mickey Gall] probably not ready to fight in the UFC yet but [Gall] was at least a real fighter.”Performance-enhancing drugs could level the playing-field, Rockhold jokedLiddell fumed at how the UFC allowed Jackson, who had a losing record at 0-1, into the company which is regarded as the pinnacle of professional mixed martial arts. “Why is this guy in the UFC?”People got so mad that Brock Lesnar got a shot at the title … but he won,” Liddell said. “Once you win the fight that you got, the argument whether you deserve the fight or not is gone. And Brock was a beast of a wrestler.”
Luke Rockhold and Chuck Liddell at a UFC match in Las Vegas, in 2015.
Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
For Rockhold, “the technical aspect of things supersede the strength and physicality” that WWE guys may have.
The only thing that could counter-balance a trained fighter’s skillset is performance-enhancing drugs, Rockhold suggested, but even then the Californian would expect the fighter to be able to handle a “juiced-up” wrestler.Rockhold referenced the time Lesnar returned to the UFC for the UFC 200 show in 2016, beat Mark Hunt, but had the decision retroactively overturned after the former heavyweight champion failed a drug test.Lesnar was fined $250,000 and slapped with a one-year ban.”[If] they allow the wrestlers to use steroids and be who they are, like the UFC has seemingly done with Brock and create exceptions so people can cheat. So maybe The Rock could juice up and have a chance.
“But the technical realm usually takes over,” he said.Liddell plays Marcus, a coach, and Rockhold features as Tony Gunn in the upcoming Cagefighter: World’s Collide movie.Read more:The veteran UFC fighter who knocked an American’s teeth out said he knew he was doing damage because his fist hurt from all the punching
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