I have to start by saying that this is not a top ten list. This is a simple article featuring ten guys that I think would have made an impact on Mixed Martial Arts, if they were able to compete in the ring or the Octagon today.
This is not to say that they could have made it "as was". This is to say that given what they did, and how, they very well could have adapted their respective styles to MMA.
Of course there is a North American slant to this, featuring mostly boxers and wrestlers. I grew up in Northern Alberta Canada, and as such, had to mostly go with what I knew.
But it creates a great debate. It also opens it up for you to comment and put down a few of your thoughts.
Without further adieu...Ten Guys who could have made an impact, had there been the popular form of MMA that we watch presently. (In no particular order)
"Bad News" Allen Coage:
The "bad news" is my favorite professional wrestler of all time. I can hear the moans and groans from the mainstream MMA fans that I would include a pro wrestler. But I would say this, after winning a bronze medal in the 1976 Summer Olympics in Judo, the bad news needed to make a living. There was no fighting for money, outside of boxing, in Harlem, that would pay the bills. Being a "heel" came easy to Coage. He was a serious and tough dude. He was not someone who liked to joke and fool around. He was known to have a quick temper, and once is purported to have challenged Andre the Giant to a fist fight. He trained in Judo for 20 years, all over the world, and also learned to wrestle from both Stu Hart, and Antonio Inoki. That work ethic alone, and a bad attitude scream "fighter". First on the list and the cover pic, only because he is my favorite on the list. I think he would give the "ghettoblaster" to Kimbo Slice for stealing his look in his debut.
Iron Mike, in his prime was almost impossible to hit. People talk at such length about his boxing power, and knockout blows with both hands, but rarely credit his longtime trainer and Mentor, Cus D'Amato. Cus trained notable fighters such as Floyd Patterson, and Jose Torres. Both pissed Cus off, because they were unable to execute the defensive part of the "peek a boo" offence. Mike came to live with Cus, after a troubled youth filled with detention centers, and street fights. He was tough when got there, and became a machine under the D'Amato system. The knockouts came actually as a result of a side to side head movement, designed to hit opponents from angles that they could not see, or defend. Tyson hits you flush, and you didnt see it, you are goin to "Lullabye" avenue and "Dream" Street. Under the system, Mike won a silver medal in the Junior Olympics, losing to future Olympic Gold Medallist Henry Tillman. He won his first Heavyweight title at age 22. He eventually unified the World Heavyweight Boxing Crown. He captivated the world, in the ring with 44 knockouts.
But make no mistake, he was young, freakish strong, willing to learn, tough as nails, and angry as hell.
I would guess he could have been trained in the nuances of MMA.
I insist. Go and read about this guy if you like your Brazillian Jiu Jitsu. I actually think that to some degree, this guy inspired a lot of what MMA is all about. This dude was one of the original inventors and users of BJJ, as a fighting art.
Maeda basically was a Judoka, that invented a multi fighting style discipline name "Jiu-Do". Essentially, he travelled the globe, and in every place, sought out the local fighting champion, and challenged them to fight him, hand to hand, anything goes. His fights were against those from any discipline, and any technique. The Gracie family is reported to have seen him, and were so impressed they began to pursue and recreate modern Jiu Jitsu. Renzo Gracie's book "Mastering Jiu Jistu", was inspired by Maeda, and his life long dedication to fighting..
This guy already was used to fighting any type of style and opponent. No doubt in my mind that he would have made an impact today.
Jean Claude Van Damme:
Yeah, I know. Van Damme? An actor in a lot of bad martial arts flicks?
Yup. In fact, according to Wikipedia, he is going to fight again at the end of the year. Like as in 2010. The facts are that he fought, and was an excellent striker. He has an actual fighting record, and its pretty good. In his youth he was in great shape. He began his fighting career at age 10, training in shotokan karate, and kickboxing. He began his fighting career in the European full contact system. His record upon retiring to make movies was 18 - 1, all wins by ko.
Yeah, he made a few good and a few bad movies, but Frank Dux belongs on my list. He would need a lot of seasoning and a ground game, but think Mirko Cro Cop in his prime.
Another Pro Wrestler. But, again, for a lot of these guys, the money in pro wrestling exceeded what they could make actually fighting at the time. At this time, wrestling was still thought of as real, and was to some extent. (pre Gorgeous George)
I was thinking of Owen or Bret first, with both being excellent amatuer wrestlers, and immensely tough. But in thinking about it, there just was no tougher than Stu, and he is who both credited with teaching them to wrestle, and to be so tough. He trained thousands of young men to wrestle, and I am not talking about fake chops, and punches. I mean, amateur wrestling, with a twist of aggression. He was barrel chested, had hands like vices, and a set of cauliflower ears that would make you squeemish. Taking him down, or getting him off of you was almost impossible when he was in his prime, unless he wanted you to. I met him at age 10, and literally was scared for my life when he grabbed me away from my grandpa, and was threatening to slam me as a joke. He was huge, powerful, and every Hart talks about his sadistic need to "wrestle" people. He twisted and stretched people for fun. The Hart kids talk about him taking musclebound, full grown men, at age 70, and making them scream and cry out like they were dying.
Not only did he know how to wrestle you, limit your motions, cut off your oxygen, and stretch you until you screamed. He enjoyed doing it.
A young Stu Hart, looking to feed his family, if given the opportunity to fight, would have found a way to win in MMA.
"The Greatest" was so fast and athletic, that I have no doubt whatsoever. There are dozens of great boxers, and a person could actually make a list, full of only historical boxers that would have been good mma fighters. He would have been very hard to catch to take down, but given his work ethic, I would think he could have adapted, in the clinch and on the ground.
But the Undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World was no ordinary talent. He also fought Antonio Inoki, in a flawed, but not fake wrestler vs boxer match, which indicates an interest in multi discipline dominance. Being a former Olympic Gold Medalist, and undisputed Champion of the World qualifies him. What makes him interesting is his famous "Whats my name?" fight against Ernie Terrell.
This was the fight in which his opponent kept referring to him in the pre fight hype, as Cassius Clay. He had changed his name to Muhammed Ali, and took great offense. If you have never seen this fight, I will give you a clue. It was an amazing display of boxing technique, and a brutal display of cruelty. Ali beat him, angrily, and as hard as possible, revealing a side not to be messed with.
Greatest Boxer of all time in my opinion. Yup. He would have been good.
Johnson gets in specifically because of the era in which he fought. Fighting is hard enough. Imagine coming to the ring, with a crowd full of people screaming that they were going to kill you, win or lose. Imagine trying to ply the trade, with the general public, and controlling lawmaking societies hating you openly, and allowed to do so legally
But racism notwithstanding, Johnson won both the "colored" World Championship, and the World Heavyweight Boxing Championship, thus unifying the un-unifiable. That is impressive. Again, at this time, these people were raised to believe they were inferior to white people. I would say that he certainly proved a lot of people wrong. 40 knockouts, in crooked organizations, with loose rules is a feat not many today could go back and do in the same circumstance.
Big, strong as an ox, quick, and a brilliant counter puncher. Teach him whatever you want. This guy fought from the heart, and was game to fight anyone, anywhere, and evidently, in any situation. There weren't many fighting challenges Johnson would have shied away from.
Think about it. He is in.
A former Div 1 NCAA Champion from North Dakota. An Olympian in Greco Roman Wrestling with a fourth place finish in '76, and had the US not boycotted, qualified in '80. A powerhouse, in stature, hard as nails, and darn near impossible to get down on his back, and keep down.
Wrestling is such a big part of American MMA. Brad was a fantastic Wrestler, who went on to a somewhat successful career in Pro Wrestling. Think Brock Lesnar, only smaller.
Not much on personality, Brad would have been all business.
The Dragon is the inventor of the "Jeet Kune Do" fighting style. Bruce began training in Karate at age 13. His philosophy was one of total defense using speed, fakes, and several avenues of hard to counter striking. He coined it "the style of no style". It was to be something that just would not fit into your typical "Martial Arts" type of mold. He also competed in open karate tournaments. He was the purveyor of the unstoppable punch, and fought and beat boxers too.
He fought in open competitions, and was a lightning fast phenom. He was willing to fight at any time, against anyone. Had there been any sort of MMA at the time, I would pretty much guarantee Bruce would have found a way in.
No need to go into detail. Bruce Lee is the master.
I mean you just had to know the Canadian Kid was going to dust off the man with the greatest chin in the history of boxing. The original "people's champion", he was never knocked down in 93 professional fights. His list of guys fought is where this seems a little more relevant. Muhammed Ali twice, George Foreman, Joe Frazier, and Floyd Patterson. Kind of a "who's who", in boxing.
He also could fight. Not being able to beat those guys is certainly not a crime. He also knocked out 4 guys in one night in Toronto. This guy could throw, but he could defend, and take a punch.
He would have definitely needed a lot of training, but George would have been up for anything. This guy hunts bears with a hockey stick.
Chuvalo...no doubt about it....hard to hurt MMA fighter!
Thank you for the read. Love to hear your comments and who you might think could have been, in the world of MMA today.