At tonight’s UFC 212 event, it was announced that NJPW legend Kazushi Sakuraba was being inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame. A crowning achievement for the country of Japan (Sakuraba is only the 2nd Japanese fighter to win a title in UFC) and a another nod of respect to the world of professional wrestling.
Sakuraba Enters UFC Hall of Fame: Pro Wrestlers & MMA
Many forget that Sakuraba is a professional wrestler, but he began his combat sport career as a professional wrestler in Japan – working for NJPW no less. But Sakuraba, like Brock Lesnar and CM Punk, aren’t the only pro wrestlers to take their shot in the Octagon.
Here’s a look at a few wrestlers who entered the world of MMA – plus a batch of MMA fighters who came the other way. Both sides had their share of success stories and failures.
THE WRESTLERS WHO BECAME MMA FIGHTERS
(Must have at least five MMA fights; only includes those from true MMA, does not include boxers, amateur wrestlers or underground fighters)
KAZUSHI SAKURABA, NJPW
Pro Wrestling Debut: 1993
MMA Promotions: PRIDE, UFC
MMA Record: 46 fights, 26 wins (4 KO, 19 Submission, 3 DEC), 17 losses
First MMA Match: July 14, 1996, Loss to Kimo Leopoldo, Shoot Boxing S-Cup ’96
Last MMA Match: December 29, 2015, Loss to Shinya Aoki, Rizin FF
First man to beat Royce Gracie in MMA history. Nicknamed “The Gracie Hunter” because in just over a year (from November 1999 to December 2000), he defeated four Gracie Family fighters (Royler in November ’99, Royce in May ’00, Renzo in August ’00 and Ryan in December ’00).
BROCK LESNAR, WWE
Pro Wrestling Debut: 2000
MMA Promotions: K-1, UFC
MMA Record: 9 fights, 5 wins (2 KO, 2 Submission, 1 DEC), 3 losses, 1 no contest
First MMA Match: June 2, 2007, Submission win over Min Soo Kim, K-1,
Last MMA Match: July 9, 2016, no contest vs Mark Hunt, UFC
5x WWE World Champion, IWGP Heavyweight Champion, UFC Heavyweight Champion
MINORU SUZUKI, NJPW
Pro Wrestling Debut: 1988
MMA Promotions: Pancrase
MMA Record: 49 fights, 29 wins (3 KO, 21 Submission, 4 DEC, 1 DQ), 20 losses
First MMA Match: September 21, 1993, Submission win over Katsuomi Inagaki, Pancrase
Last MMA Match: March 9, 2013, Submission win over Hans Nijman, U-Spirits
Leaderf of Suzuki-Gun faction in NJPW; 2x AJPW Triple Crown Heavyweight Champion, NEVER Openweight Champion (current), GHC Heavyweight Champion, King of Pancrase Openweight Champion