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5 Sports Athletes That Should Have Been Professional Fighters

5 Sports Athletes That Should Have Been Professional Fighters
Shaquille O'Neal as DJ Diesel performs - Ethan Miller/Getty Images/AFP

As a lifelong fan of professional mixed martial arts, the unprecedented growth of promotions such as the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has me wondering… How many athletes would have made a crossover if its current popularity existed many years ago?

Let’s keep it real; nobody expected that meathead Brock Lesnar to give up the WWE for a shot in the UFC, and even the likes of former NFL player Herschel Walker tested his aggression in the cage.

Professional athletes dare I state the obvious, own noteworthy athletic abilities, but not all of them would make great fighters. However, mix in aggression and genetics with said athletic ability, and you know there are a few athletes we would’ve loved to see in the octagon.

Shaquille O’Neal

This mf’er would squash most of us in a fight based on stature alone, especially if tempers were flared. Standing at 7-foot-1-inches tall and around 325 pounds in weight, Shaq always showed an aggressive side on the court, and if this transitioned into a fight, good luck causing him damage. The average male would need a footstool and an extra 100 lbs of force even to scratch the guy.

Pride’s a b*tch, and after getting into a ruckus with O’Neal on the court, it was Charles Barkley looking flustered like a petite blonde woman on the set of an all-black porno shoot. How does the saying go, “fu*k around and find out” Well, Barkley decided to fu*k around, and he certainly found out that big-man Shaq doesn’t take no sh*t.

O’Neal allowing his temper to flare wasn’t uncommon, though. Remember when Alvin Robertson of the Detroit Pistons got their hands?

While he undoubtedly needs a lot of work on his right cross, Shaq entering the octagon during his prime is a scary thought. His size is one thing, but the athletic prowess that saw him become a four-time NBA champion would be even more intimidating if he received mixed martial arts training – imagine those arms sinking in a rear naked choke, lights out!

Diego Maradona

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Jorge Masvidal was nothing more than an imitator when he landed the flying knee on Ben Askren.

Simply beautiful. Art takes its shapes in many forms, and this was a Picasso in the world of MMA.

But hold on just a second because the originator needs to be credited. And that man is none other than the late, great Diego Maradona.

The timing, the set-up, and the delivery were just perfect. Maradona wasn’t just one of the world’s greatest soccer players to have ever lived; he was an Argentinian firecracker that couldn’t be stopped on the pitch unless he handled him with aggression.

At 5-foot-5-inches, Maradona would’ve made an excellent UFC flyweight, although the pot belly he walked around with in the later years would likely force a move to bantamweight.

During his time as a player, he was down to scrap, and even when he retired, old age didn’t stop him from slapping a journalist who winked at his girlfriend.

Maradona was a fighter through and through, on and off the pitch, respect!

Ray Lewis

Of course, the NFL and the UFC don’t seem like a perfect pairing to the all-seeing-eye. But if you look at the broader spectrum of these sports, it’s a damn perfect match.

Just ask:

  • Greg Hardy
  • Matt Mitrione
  • Brendan Schaub
  • Eryk Anders
  • Herschel Walker
  • Bobb Sapp
  • Marcus Jones
  • Brock Lesnar
  • Michael Westbrook
  • Austen Lane

These former football players took their athletic abilities into MMA and proved a transition from the end zone to the cage was a match made in heaven, especially for defensive players that already owned explosive takedown skills.

Now, picture this, linebacker Ray Lewis taking his warrior mentality and unhuman-like physical attributes into a fight; I wouldn’t want to be on the opposite end of that.

His elite coordination and arm strength would’ve been a sight to see in the octagon; just look at some of these aggressive moments he had on the field.

James Harrison

While we’re on the topic of football, how could we ignore a player nicknamed “most feared” in our list? If you’ve ever wondered what legalized attempted murder looks like, just take a peek at Harrison’s highlight reel.


Behind a 15-year NFL career, Harrison avoided major injuries; he flattened the opposing offense with nasty tackles and aggressive nature. He achieved this due to his addiction to the gym; he never stopped working out and owns a long list of devastating tackles as a result.

Unfathomable strength, explosive power, and speed were three of Harrison’s key attributes.

Whether it’s a full-body contact takedown or picking angles, there weren’t many players rushing to go head-to-head with Harrison. But with his work ethic and aggression in MMA training, we’d have had a ruthless fighter on our hands.

Bob Probert

Ice Hockey is a brutal sport, and the fact it allows players to fight makes it even more enjoyable. Hell, some fans love players based on their fighting skills alone. What’s achieved with the puck doesn’t matter to some, as the “enforcers” bring the real entertainment.

With a mullet, the teeth of a developing 7-year-old, and heavy hands, Probert was a brawler on the ice that notably dabbled in a little boxing training occasionally.

We could list an entire roster of NHL players that would’ve suited a career change into professional fighting, but none impacted the world of hockey brawls like Bob Probert.

He racked up 3,300 penalty minutes in 935 games, spent most of his time in the penalty box, and memorably knocked out Scott Parker of the Avalanche in 11 seconds toward the latter stage of his career.

I could envision him stepping into the octagon and throwing hands like a man possessed while collecting a highlight reel of knockouts obtained through his ability to throw hands like a madman.

Rest in peace, Bob; your savagery will be remembered for years to come.

I’m outta here!

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