Randy Couture, Dan Henderson and The 10 Greatest Olympians Turned MMA Stars

Todd Seyler@toddseylerContributor IFebruary 5, 2011

Randy Couture, Dan Henderson and The 10 Greatest Olympians Turned MMA Stars

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    Olympic Athletes In MMA

    The global stage of the Olympics has provided the world with introductions to some of the greatest amateur athletes in the world.

    Memorable achievements include the United States ice hockey victory over the daunted Russian team in Lake Placid in 1980.  More recently, Michael Phelps dominated the swimming events winning eight gold medals in 2008 in Beijing.

    Not only does the global stage provide an introduction to these elite athletes, but the Olympics also provide a launching pad for numerous Olympians into the sport of mixed martial arts.

    Wrestlers and Judoka Olympians are amongst some of the disciplines that have provided the world with tremendous ultimate fighters.

    Follow along as I detail former Olympians who have transitioned into mixed martial arts and have utilized their Olympic backgrounds to become tremendous competitors within the Octagon.

    I welcome your comments.

    Todd Seyler

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Ferrid "Hurricane" Kheder

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    Ferrid Kheder

    In 1979, this French Tunisian began training judo at the age of four. Training with the French team from 1993 to 2001 and the Tunisian Team from 2001 to 2004, Kheder went on to medal seven times in the World Cup and placed seventh at the 2000 Olympic Games.

    Transitioning into mixed martial arts, this judo black belt also earned a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.  Developing a Muay-Thai stand up game to complement his tremendous judo background and established jiu-jitsu base, Ferrid Kheder has an 18-5-1 overall MMA record.

    Recently shrouded in controversy with his management team, Kheder continues to compete in both the lightweight and welterweight divisions, most recently with M-1 Global promotions. 

Rick Hawn

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    Rick Hawn

    Former Olympian and current undefeated MMA fighter Rick Hawn is the latest addition to Bellator Fighting Championships’ upcoming fourth-season welterweight tournament.

    At 34 years old, Hawn has a solid 7-0 professional mixed martial arts record with seven knockouts.

    A former 2004 U.S. Olympic judo team member, Rick Hawn won numerous medals at the U.S. national championships, two medals at the Pan American Games and finished ninth at the 2004 Olympics.

    A very solid 170-pound competitor, Hawn will look to spawn his Olympic success into continued mixed martial arts' success in the welterweight tournament.

Kamal "Prince Of Persia" Shalorus

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    Kamal Shalorus

    At 5'8" 155 pounds, Kamal Shalorus is a British-Iranian dynamo who is tremendously powerful and explosive within the Octagon.

    Representing Great Britain in an Olympic qualification tournament, this decorated wrestler finished 19th for his country.

    Extremely strong and with an Olympic level wrestling foundation, Shalorus has taken his grappling background into the cage where he has developed solid boxing skills to round out his ultimate fighting performance.

    Successful in the WEC with three victories and one draw, Kamal was integrated into the UFC lightweight roster after the purchase of the WEC promotion.

    Scheduled to fight against Jim Miller at UFC 128 in March 2011, Shalorus will be looking to add another victory to his already impressive 7-0-2 mixed martial arts record. 

Ben "Funky" Askren

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    Ben "Funky" Askren

    Potentially most known for his Afro or unorthodox wrestling techniques, this former University of Missouri grappling stand out holds the single season NCAA pin record.

    In addition to holding that remarkable record, Ben Askren was also a two-time NCAA Division I Wrestling Champion (2004, 2005) and four-time NCAA Division I All-American wrestler.

    Competing in the 2008 Olympic freestyle wrestling tournament, Askren did not achieve his goals and made the transition into mixed martial arts soon thereafter.

    Undefeated as an ultimate fighter with a 7-0 record, Askren recently won the Bellator lightweight championship belt with a victory over Lyman Good in October 2010.

    Fighting out of Scottsdale, Ariz., Ben Askren will constantly develop his overall MMA game and continue to be a force within the 170-pound division.

Rhadi Ferguson

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    Rhadi Ferguson

    A four-time U.S. national Judo champion and 2004 U.S. Judo Olympian, Dr. Rhadi Ferguson is also an accomplished strength and conditioning coach training at American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Fla.

    A black belt in both Brazilian jiu-jitsu and judo, Ferguson is noted as being the only MMA competitor to compete in the Olympic Games, the Brazilian jiu-Jitsu World Championships, and the Abu Dhabi Submission Wrestling World Championships.

    Making his professional MMA debut in 2010, Ferguson TKO'd his first two opponents in the light heavyweight division earning an invitation to the Strikeforce promotion.

    With his Strikeforce debut at Strikeforce Challengers 13: Woodley vs. Saffiedine on Jan. 7, 2011, Rhadi was victorious over John Richard via kneebar in the second round.

    Surrounded by tremendous talent at American Top Team and with an Olympic level work ethic, Rhadi Ferguson will continue to grow as an ultimate fighter and become a notable force within the light heavyweight division for Strikeforce.

Daniel Cormier

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    Daniel Cormier

    With worldwide freestyle wrestling accolades dating back to 1995, Daniel Cormier competed and came in fourth at the 2004 Olympics.

    Pursuing a career in mixed martial arts in the heavyweight division, this 5'11" 250 pound NCAA Division I All-American wrestler has aligned himself with the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Calif.

    Training alongside UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez and UFC competitors Josh Koscheck and Jon Fitch at AKA, Cormier inked an eight-fight deal with Strikeforce to compete in their heavyweight division.

    With an undefeated 7-0 MMA record, Daniel Cormier recently defeated Devin Cole in January of 2011 via unanimous decision.

    With the likes of Velasquez, Koscheck, Fitch and the other MMA competitors at AKA driving and teaching Daniel Cormier, the future for this former freestyle wrestling Olympian looks very bright. 

Hector Lombard

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    Hector Lombard

    With an overall MMA record of 27-2 with 14 knockouts, Hector Lombard is currently ranked the ninth  middleweight fighter on the planet.

    Competing exclusively for Bellator Fighting Championships, Lombard is the current Bellator middleweight champion.

    A Cuban by decent, Hector Lombard's judo dominance dates back to 1991.  This judo Olympian competed at the Sydney 2000 games and is a multiple national champion and world finalist.

    Armed with black belts in both judo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Hector Lombard continues to improve on his craft with the tutelage of the American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Fla.

    Tenacious on his feet with tremendous kick-boxing skills, Lombard is equally vicious on the ground with his submission arsenal or ground and pound attack.

    Recently calling out the Strikeforce middleweight champion "Jacare" Souza, Lombard is looking to elevate his current middleweight ranking and become the dominant force at 185 pounds.

    Keep an eye on this Olympic level judo practitioner who possesses a full array of ultimate fighting talents.

Herschel Walker

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    Herschel Walker

    Herschel Walker's growth in popularity as a mixed martial artist is at an iconic level.  With an overall MMA record of 2-0 with two TKO's from strikes, Walker's growth and maturity in the Octagon is unprecedented.

    This former National Football League standout and collegiate Heisman Trophy winner possesses unrivaled athleticism.

    Grounded with a tremendous work ethic, Herschel Walker's daily regimen of exercise and nontraditional nutritional needs is of mythological proportions.

    Competing for the United States Olympic bobsled team in the 1992 winter games in Albertville, France, Walker was the pusher on a two-member team including Brian Shimer.

    Continuing to develop his overall mixed martial arts abilities with the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, California, Walker's future in MMA shows no limits.

    Genetically gifted, unmatched athleticism, a tremendous work ethic and a willingness to learn the ultimate fighting game, Herschel Walker's young career inside the Octagon will mature as the 48-year-old puts the time into his training.

"Hollywood" Dan Henderson

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    "Hollywood" Dan Henderson

    Competing in both the 1992 Olympic games in Barcelona, Spain and the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta, Georgia, Dan Henderson is a very accomplished Greco-Roman wrestler.

    Transitioning into mixed martial arts with fellow Olympians Randy Couture and Matt Lindland, Henderson possesses a storied MMA resume including an overall 26-8 record.

    The first fighter to hold titles in two different weight classes, Dan Henderson's run as champion in both the welterweight and middleweight divisions of PRIDE Fighting Championships was never equaled.

    Dan Henderson is currently scheduled to compete against Rafael Calvalcante for the Strikeforce light heavyweight championship in Columbus, Ohio, on March 5, 2011.

    At the veteran age of 40 years old, Henderson does not seem to be slowing down within the Octagon.

Randy "The Natural" Couture

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    Randy "The Natural" CoutureJon Kopaloff/Getty Images

    A Greco-Roman wrestling standout and gold medalist at the Pan-American Games, Randy Couture is the most successful Olympian to compete within the famed Octagon.

    At 47 years old, Couture has competed in a record 15 title fights for the UFC. He, along with Chuck Liddell, has the second highest amount of fights in the UFC at 23, behind Matt Hughes' 24.

    Currently ranked as the No. 10 Light heavyweight fighter in the world by Yahoo! Sports, he is scheduled to compete against Lyoto Machida at UFC 129 on April 30, 2011.

    The first fighter to hold championships within two weight classes, "The Natural" has been a formidable threat within the UFC's heavyweight and light heavyweight division for nearly a decade. 

    A three-time heavyweight champion, a two-time light heavyweight champion, a UFC tournament winner and a Hall of Fame fighter, Randy Couture's resume within the octagon speaks for itself. 

    In addition to these amazing accolades, Couture also possesses the most championship reigns in UFC history with six, most championship fights in UFC history with 15, as well as numerous fight and fighter of the year awards.

    There is no debating Randy Couture's talents within the Octagon.  His MMA book of work speaks for itself.  There is also no debating that this former Olympian has become the most storied Olympic level athlete of all time.

    Who will be the next former Olympian to knock Randy Couture from his pedestal?  Only time will tell.