When you think of potential crossovers into the world of wrestling, it’s usually athletes, rappers, someone that’s doing it because they enjoy this great business. Dan Lambert, owner of a successful cruise line and arguably the premier mixed martial arts gym on the planet might not fit the typical mold for celebrity crossover. Still, he is most definitely doing this for the pure love of professional wrestling.
Many of you might be scratching your head, wondering who he is. Well, that’s why we’re here to help! While not much is known about Lambert’s early life, we hope to offer a little enlightenment on the American Top Team owner. Let’s dive in!
Since the writing of this article Dan Lambert has stepped into the ring for an actual MATCH in AEW at Full Gear!
Dan Lambert: A Lifelong Wrestling Fan
Lambert fell in love with the world of professional wrestling years ago. However, there is one particular moment Lambert credits for instilling a lifelong passion in him. That moment was The Assassin (also known as the late Jody Hamilton) beating up Sir Oliver Humperdink, while Ox Baker was forced to watch being tangled up in the ring ropes.
Lambert fell in love immediately and began asking his grandfather to take him to shows. A chance meeting with Gordon Nelson during his teen years gave the young Lambert a chance to work for the ring crew with his friends in exchange for free tickets.
It wasn’t long until Lambert began tape trading, which broadened his love of wrestling, particularly for the Japanese style. Through tape trading, Lambert found the sport that would bring him his most notoriety, mixed martial arts.
Beginning of American Top Team
Dan’s love of wrestling lived throughout his life, even while building a successful cruise line based in South Florida. He also began getting tapes of Pancrase Fighting Championships. He grew increasingly interested in the developing sport of what we now know as MMA.
Naturally, seeing these evolving fighting leagues develop led Lambert to attend a World Extreme Fighting show. This is where Lambert met Marcus “Conan” Silveira, a then future Brazilian Jui-Jitsu legend. Conan had told Lambert about his gym in Miami, and Lambert just so happened to live ten minutes away.
Lambert fell deeper in love with the sport becoming an active member of the Silveira Brother’s Jui-Jitsu. It was a highly regarded gym in the mid-’90s and had a spotlight on it from Conan’s time in the UFC. Though he never competed himself, Lambert became well known amongst those in the MMA Community.
So well known that when the original owners were looking to sell, Lambert was one of the first people they reached out to. It did not take much convincing for Lambert. He saw the potential of the sport and wanted to make sure his guys had a place to fight.
Before Lambert could put pen to paper and have a chance at shaping the sport to his vision, a deal was made with the Fertitta brothers. Lambert has never been shy about how this was the best thing that could’ve happened for the sport.
A little over a year after the potential UFC buyout fell through, Lambert, along with Silveira and renowned instructor Ricardo Liborio officially founded American Top Team. Though it would struggle in the early days against the likes of American Kickboxing Academy, the Shamrock-led Lions Den, and Miletich Fighting Systems, ATT has persevered. As a result, it is arguably the most successful and decorated gym in the world of MMA.
There is no way for is to give American Top Team the proper respect it deserves. They have top stars and champions such as Dustin Poirier, Jorge Masvidal, and the only two-division defending champion in UFC history Amanda Nunes. However, while they are the most well-known, that does not show the true depth they have with others such as Bellator great Douglas Lima, top Light-Heavyweight contender Thiago Santos, the list goes on.
They are also one of the few MMA gyms to survive a mass exodus when Jorge Santiago, Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva, Yuri Villefort, and others left to join the Glenn Robinson-funded Blackzilians. Understandably, this upset Lambert and resulted in a very public feud with Robinson. The factors included Robinson allegedly paying Lambert’s former fighters to leave and train at his gym to help establish it, a practice the old-school Lambert resented.
Their rivalry escalated to the point of the UFC basing the entire twenty-first season of The Ultimate Fighter around it. It was the first time in the show’s history that two teams and their feuding owners were featured over a set of coaching fighters. It also acted as Lambert’s introduction to casual fans as the owner of American Top Team had gone unappreciated for years.
While we can’t say for sure filming The Ultimate Fighter gave Dan the desire to be in front of the camera, it gave him more exposure than before. It wasn’t long after that Lambert’s still burning love for wrestling made its way to our TV screens.
Dan Lambert in IMPACT Wrestling
In Late 2017, Dan Lambert, with a few notable American Top Team representatives in former UFC Heavyweight Champion Andrei Arlovski, former Interim UFC Welterweight Champion, and long-time UFC veteran Gleison Tibau assisted Bobby Lashley and King Mo in a feud with Moose and UFC Veteran Stephan Bonnar.
Lambert’s promos during this time frame are an underrated gem, and his love for professional wrestling shines through. Heck, he cut a promo on his passion for professional wrestling and shows off the most impressive championship belt collection I have ever seen.
The best part about his time in IMPACT is that it shows one thing, Dan Lambert gets it. Lambert is doing this to build up the performers. He does not care how he looks coming out of it; all he cares about is taking part and helping out where he can. Which if you look at Lamberts publicized career, that seems to be a growing theme.
Dan Lambert has rekindled his IMPACT magic in Major League Wrestling where he visited Filthy Island, once again siding with King Mo and showing the fans that he’s still got it! With his name recognition, wrestling fandom, and talent on the mic Dan Lambert and his presence in AEW should excite everyone.