There is no sport quite like MMA. To be successful, a combatant must possess a unique combination of speed, power, agility and technique. Many MMA fighters have spent their entire lifetimes perfecting their trade and the results are often awesome and incredible.
Over the years, athletes from other sports have tried to cross over to MMA. Everyone remembers boxing superstar James Toney tapping out to the savvy veteran Randy Couture at UFC 118. It showcased two stars from fighting sports colliding and putting supremacy to the test.
Along with boxers, it has become well publicized when professionals from other sports try their hands at MMA. Some come in with martial arts backgrounds, while others believe they can win with sheer power and brute force. The results have, of course, been mixed.
The sport that boasts the biggest and baddest of all athletes is professional football. A hulking linebacker or offensive tackle can certainly present an intimidating picture. How have football players turned MMA wanna-bes fared in the octagon though?
Many have tried to cross over by fighting in small promotions against mid-level completion. Others have tried to step up quickly against top tier talent. The results are not always promising. Take for example Johnnie Morton, who was a wide receiver for the Lions, Chiefs and 49ers of the NFL.
After a successful football career, he thought his athletic prowess would translate into MMA conquest. As a result he suffered a brutal 38-second knockout at the hands of Bernard Ackah in 2007. Have other football players fared better?
Below is a list of six former professional gridironers who have stepped up to the challenge. Notably left off the list is Brock Lesnar, who became UFC Heavyweight Champion after a brief stint on the pre-season squad of the Minnesota Vikings.
Football wasn’t Lesnar’s primary calling, as he was a wrestling star prior to that endeavor. Also left out are Redskin and Bengal wide receiver Michael Westbrook, who boasts a 1-1 professional record with one no contest and long-time NFL alumni Alonzo Spellman who won a sole matchup in MMA.
The following list is the top six football players who have competed in MMA at high levels of competition with successful results.
Jones spent time in the NFL as a defensive end with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and subsequently tried his hand at MMA. His sheer athletic ability helped him to forge a record of 4-2.
His largest stage was an appearance on UFC’s The Ultimate Fighter 10 Final (TUF 10). He lost that bout to Matt Mitrione and has not fought since.
Sapp was an offensive lineman who spent roster time with the Bears, Vikings, Ravens and Raiders, although he only appeared in one regular season game.
After leaving football, Sapp used his sheer strength and superior size to venture into the world of MMA and kickboxing. He quickly became a big draw in Japan and continues to fight regularly. He has bullied his way to a professional MMA record of 11-6 while fighting for respected promotions such as Pride, K-1, Strikeforce and Dream.
Walker is the most renowned and successful of all the NFL players on this list. Playing as a running back, he was the 1982 Heisman trophy winner for the Georgia Bulldogs. He went on to have a successful career with the New Jersey Generals in the USFL and with the Cowboys, Vikings, Eagles and Giants in the NFL.
He has always been a phenomenally-conditioned athlete as he was also an Olympian bobsledder. Unexpectedly at the age of 47, he decided to compete in MMA with Strikeforce. He has initially fared well, currently sporting a record of 2-0.
Shivers, a former Falcons offensive lineman, was also a contestant on TUF 10. His professional record stands at 8-1 and he has competed for several organizations including Strike Force and Elite XC.
Schaub, a fullback in the Arena Football League and with the Bills practice squad, has fought his way to a 7-1 professional record.
He was a finalist on TUF 10, losing to “Big Country” Roy Nelson. He currently holds a 3-1 record in the UFC and is set to face Mirko Filipovic at UFC 128. He holds notable wins over Gabriel Gonzaga, Chris Tuchschere and Chase Gormley.
Mitrione, a defensive tackle for the Giants and Vikings, was also a combatant on TUF 10. He has powered his way to an impressive 4-0 record, all within the UFC.
He has defeated Marcus Jones, Kimbo Slice, Joey Beltran and Tim Hague.
There you have it, the top six football players turned MMA fighters.
All have been impressive so far, but time will tell their staying power as they continue to face stiffer competition. They serve as inspirations to other NFL players who think they have what it takes to step up
with the big boys of MMA. They had better be ready and train hard though, or they very well could end up like Johnnie Morton, longing for helmets, pads and timeouts………….