Before "King" Mo Lawal and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson landed their historic deals that saw them sign with both Bellator to compete in MMA as well as TNA Wrestling to begin their pro wrestling careers, Bobby Lashley was an old hand at the trade.
A former collegiate standout in wrestling, Lashley was a quick pickup several years ago for World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) where he cut his teeth in the industry and became one of the company's biggest stars during his years with the organization.
Following an injury that saw him exit the WWE in 2008, Lashley began pursuing his new career in mixed martial arts, where he competed in several promotions including a few fights in Strikeforce. During that time, Lashley found his way back into pro wrestling as well, working local shows as well as becoming a mainstay at TNA wrestling.
Lashley has known since day one that he decided to dedicate his life to both MMA and pro wrestling that it was going to be hard on his body and mind, but his passion never faded and he continues to walk both roads today.
It’s not an easy path to travel, however, and Lashley is quick to offer advice to both Lawal and Jackson that being the best in MMA and pro wrestling won't come easy.
"I'm a pioneer," Lashley told Bleacher Report about doing both MMA and pro wrestling simultaneously. "I think it's harder for some of these guys that are coming from fighting to pro wrestling. I guess it's difficult either way, it has its own challenges. When you go from fighting to pro wrestling you have to learn pro wrestling, because the pro wrestling fans are not going to be too open to somebody going out there and faking it or trying it.
"Just for them to have the opportunity to do it, I think it's great and they will have a good time doing it."
Lawal has started his professional wrestling training at Ohio Valley Wrestling based in Kentucky, and quickly pointed out just how tough learning the ropes can be even though he's been an athlete his entire life.
Lashley has wrestled on the biggest stages in the industry and still knows he has plenty to learn, so it's not going to be any easier for the fighters to learn how to go full speed in the squared-circle.
"I started wrestling 10 years ago and I'm still learning," Lashley said. "For these guys just getting into it, it's not going to be easy. They're going to have those matches where it just doesn't really make any sense. They’ve just got to learn it's a work in progress. It's going take a little bit of time."
Lashley's own fight career has taken a number of hits over the years while he's continued to follow his dream of pro wrestling. The amount of fights he's been able to take has dwindled year by year, and it's been difficult to even find promotions that can get him viable matchups.
Add to that the rigors of wrestling in the independent circuit, and Lashley has felt the brunt of the punishment both on his body and in his fight career.
"It's a little difficult. I had a pro wrestling match last week, I did a couple of shows in Boston and then I have this fight, and then the day after this fight I'm going to fly out and do another one," Lashley explained. "For me, it's during the week, I can rehab and recoup my body and on the weekends I can fight and do pro wrestling."
For the first time in years, Lashley was able to book fights close enough together to stay in perfect competition shape. He won a bout three weeks ago at Titan Fighting 25 and now returns this weekend to face Matthew Larson at Global Warrior Challenge.
The schedule, as tough as it seems, actually puts a smile on Lashley's face because he's finally doing both things he loves on a regular basis—something he's rarely had the chance to do before.
In a perfect world, Lashley would love to join Lawal and Jackson on the Bellator roster along with a return to TNA wrestling because he was built for that kind of career. He also believes he could be a mentor of sorts to his friends from the MMA world as they transition to pro wrestling.
"I don't want to say it like that, but that sounds good. I think a TNA and Bellator thing makes sense," Lashley stated. "We've talked with them for damn near a year now, but it's got to make sense on both sides. I think the one thing I can do with the TNA and Bellator split thing is to be able to bridge the gap for those guys that are in it right now and to be able to help those guys out. Like for Mo and Rampage, they can't go out and have a match right now. I mean they can fake it as much as they want, and they can try and I hope they do have good matches, but if you put me with those guys I can be the one when they get rough, tag me in. I can do a lot of the match."
Lashley hopes to negotiate the right kind of deal, and he would love to bring another MMA star to the Bellator cage while setting the stage for a return to TNA as well. First up on his agenda is to dispatch of Larson in his fight this weekend before heading back out on the road for his pro wrestling commitments one day later.
"I think it's almost a no brainer to make that happen," Lashley said about joining Bellator and TNA. "If the powers that be do the right thing and make that happen.
"I've just got to come out pretty impressive this weekend. I've got to kick this guy's ass, I've got to beat him down bad."
Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and all quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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