Next 10 Sports Stars We'd Love to See in the UFC's Octagon
Former WWE Superstar CM Punk stepped into the Octagon at UFC 203 and didn't last long.
Punk, 37, tapped out at the hands of the upstart Mickey Gall in an ugly affair, showing that about two years of hobbled training wouldn't come close to a guy who trained all his life for the sport.
Still, it had to get people thinking.
What if some of the more dominant, notable names in the sporting world went the Punk route and decided to start MMA training?
Here's the catch—most might go the Punk route. The crossover to UFC, or mixed martial arts in general, is an ugly, brutal affair professional fighters are more than willing to welcome with open arms.
But still, it's fun to think about. Whether tuning in just to watch an unpopular guy get kicked around or a monster actually put up a fight, there are several big names we'd love to see step into the Octagon.
Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Nationals
In Bryce Harper's case, most would tune in to see him get kicked around, maybe hoping the fight goes well into the deeper rounds.
Deserving or not, the Washington Nationals outfielder remains one of the most disliked people in sports.
Case in point—Harper got into a dugout fight with teammate Jonathan Papelbon. Not an NBA slap fight, a tad more physical than that.
At 23 years old, Harper is probably more physically intimidating than one would expect at 6'3" and 216 pounds. If he started training MMA and worked his way through the amateur ranks to the Octagon, who knows?
Either way, sports fans would watch.
Rougned Odor, 2B, Texas Rangers
Remember the comment about how Harper's fight was a level above an NBA slap fight?
Rougned Odor blew past that faster than the Cleveland Browns go through quarterbacks.
"I was pretty surprised," Bautista said, according to ESPN. "I mean, obviously, that's the only reason that he got me, and he got me pretty good, so I have to give him that. It takes a little bit bigger man to knock me down."
Billed at 5'11" and 195 pounds, Odor indeed isn't the biggest guy around. But there's a fire there—a willingness to mix it up in a way not befitting of his sport. How he'd fare with some official training would be quite interesting.
James Harrison, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Known unofficially as one of the scariest men alive, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison is one of those guys crazy enough to get a win in the Octagon after actually committing to it.
Harrison is terrifying. He's unafraid of injuring other players. He poses for pictures with guns while getting called a "hitman." Just one of his insane workouts is fit for a single grown man's entire lifetime workload.
Heck, a fake tweet in which he threatened to break his teammate's legs just circulated and wasn't so unbelievable.
So yes, it'd be quite a treat to see Harrison commit himself and step into the Octagon. He's 38, but Punk was 37. Who's counting?
Steve Smith, WR, Baltimore Ravens
Go ahead and Google "Steve Smith fight."
Easy. Smith has been in countless on-field altercations over the course of his NFL career, both with his own teammates and the opposition. Smith, in fact, even got sued by a former teammate for an altercation that occurred while watching film.
Always fiery, Smith comes in at 5'9" and 195 pounds. He's even been in a handful of fights since joining the Baltimore Ravens in 2014, so to quote an old CM Punk entrance theme, "This fire burns always."
NFL fans surely wouldn't mind seeing Smith get a properly sanctioned bout to see what he's really made of. Also 37, it's never too late for a career change, right?
Matt Barnes, F, Sacramento Kings
It would be fun to see an NBA bad boy step into the Octagon.
In this case, it's Matt Barnes, the guy who got into a fight with former teammate Derek Fisher over a domestic dispute. Fisher, related or not, hasn't been seen in NBA coaching circles since.
Barnes, on the other hand, got hit with six digits worth of fines last year for his on-court behavior and isn't far from any skirmish that happens involving his team.
Billed at 6'7" and 226 pounds, Barnes would fit right in with the UFC. He'd give one hell of a promo about one thing or another. Maybe he'd be the guy everyone wants to see lose and get steamrolled, or maybe he'd do the rolling.
Either way, fans would win.
Marshawn Lynch, RB, Retired
Anybody nicknamed Beast Mode should step into the Octagon.
In all seriousness, Marshawn Lynch was one of the most violent running backs in recent memory before unexpectedly retiring at the age of 30.
Plenty of time, in fact, for Lynch to pick up MMA. He already sparred with Luke Rockhold.
Lynch came in at 5'11" and 215 pounds during his playing days. He too would give a hell of a promo before who knows what in the Octagon.
The man of "about that action, boss" and Skittles fame would be a huge unknown, which is why we'd want to see it. That, and whatever flies out of his mouth when he's not throwing hands and crane kicks.
Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots
"Screw it, I'm throwing some haymakers."
That sounds like something New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski would say. He did on ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live! in reference to the fight at the end of Super Bowl XLIX, according to Eric Edholm of Yahoo Sports.
Already one of the best tight ends in the history of the game, Gronkowski is beloved by most for either his play or his frat-boy demeanor off the field. He'd be an incredible hype man for a UFC fight, even if it ended in him getting his face smashed.
It depends. Gronk is a freak of an athlete, at 6'6" and 265 pounds, whose body wouldn't be against the idea of trained combat.
J.J. Watt, DL, Houston Texans
Speaking of freak athletes, why not consider throwing J.J. Watt in the Octagon?
After all, Watt tweeted earlier this year about catching the "Octagon bug," so who knows?
Watt is a monster in the trenches, 6'5" and 295 pounds with silly strength and speed. Were he to apply that to MMA, it'd be something worth watching.
Then again, maybe not. UFC's Dana White has already said he thinks Gronkowski would crush Watt in a heavyweight bout.
Is he right? Here's hoping we find out.
Come on, who doesn't want to see this guy hop into the Octagon?
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson spent years and years building up the WWE in the Attitude Era right on through the present after his return. He's gone Hollywood but clearly remains in peak physical shape at the age of 44.
A guy who has been a world-class athlete since playing college football at Miami (Fla.) and winning a national title in 1991, odds are strong he's picked up elements of MMA throughout his career.
Either way, Johnson throwing down in a sanctioned, even amateur, fight in the Octagon would rake in the dough. He's known around the world as the next Arnold Schwarzenegger, so of course folks would get curious about his abilities in the MMA world.
What, expect something else?
This is bending the rules a bit, but getting Floyd Mayweather in an Octagon for a boxing match or something similar would be one of the biggest draws in history.
Mayweather has already talked about the possibility of fighting Conor McGregor, speaking to EsNews, as transcribed by Jed Meshew of MMA Fighting:
If I do fight, it's only against Conor McGregor. That's gonna be my only fight and not against nobody else because this matchup is just so intriguing. You have a fighter against an MMA fighter, one of the best MMA fighters to do combat and stand up and do it. He's a strong fighter and when I look at him fight he's a little faster than I thought he was so if the fight happens I can't overlook the guy. I'm pretty sure - if we make the fight happen - I'm pretty sure he's gonna push me to the limit.
Arguably the best boxer of all time, Mayweather would work over McGregor in a boxing match. He's not a knockout artist, but he'd prevail. Likewise, McGregor would demolish Mayweather in a traditional MMA fight.
In a fight like this, though, the end result doesn't matter. Maybe Mayweather wins. Maybe McGregor does. Whatever. Just get these two in the Octagon as soon as possible. If not McGregor, then at least get Mayweather in there and partaking in some sort of combat sport. The scene needs him back.