Leading Up to Brock Lesnar: The Four Professional Wrestlers Who Made the UFC

via www.midwestsportsfans.com

Brock Lesnar exploded like a super nova, quickly becoming the UFC's biggest star with his combination of charismatic presence, brutal fighting style, and immense size. Star quality is an intangible you can't teach or even predict-you just know it when you see it. Lesnar has it in spades. In the WWE, he went from his undercard debut to winning the world title from the Rock in a matter of months. 

There was something special about the mammoth Minnesota mauler, something that translated immediately to the Octagon. But Lesnar wasn't the first professional wrestler to create a stir in MMA, or even in the UFC. Wrestlers were involved in some of the sport's most amazing moments, long before Lesnar ever thought about laying the smackdown in cage.

From the very first fight in the Octagon, when Dutch pro wrestler Gerard Gordeau kicked Teila Tuili's teeth across press row, professional wrestlers made the engine of the UFC run. After focusing for the first two shows on determining which was the top martial art in a reality combat situation (spoiler alert, it was Brazilian Jiu Jitsu) Semaphore Entertainment Group realized what Vince McMahon already knew: personalities sell. Four men stood above their contemporaries as the most entertaining fighters of the UFC's formative years. 

Ken Shamrock, Dan Severn, Don Frye, and Tank Abbott were among the top fighters of their era, but saw their MMA careers cut short when the all mighty dollar helped big time wrestling lure them away from the Octagon. The UFC was under intense pressure from politicians and cable companies at the time, struggling to make ends meet. Today the UFC takes home tens of millions a month-and fighters still aren't getting rich for the most part. Imagine how tight money was in an era that saw the UFC fall off of PPV? Pro wrestling, in the same era, was at an all-time peak and had plenty of money to toss at these real life warriors. At Cageside Seats I look at these four titans of the sport, including the top draw of the SEG era UFC.

Before Lesnar, Liddell, and Georges St. Pierre, Ken Shamrock was the biggest star in UFC history. Shamrock was a veteran of the independent scene, wrestling in the southeast with future stars like Dean Malenko and The Nasty Boys, but it was his experience with the Japanese "Shootstyle" promotions that led him into MMA. Shamrock's Adonis like physique and quiet confidence made him a comfortable presence in a new sport that in every other way was flipping combat sports upside down.

It wasn't until Shamrock's return from a stint in McMahon's WWF that he really amped his promotional efforts up to eleven. This new Shamrock engaged in some amazing prefight histrionics with Don Frye and Tito Ortiz and helped revolutionize MMA a second time in the Zuffa era.

Today the tables have turned. Wrestling is struggling and many of its stars are bailing out for bigger opportunities in the cage. But in the pioneer era, our favorite fighters had to stop working on their standup to concentrate instead on their vaudeville. Check out Cageside Seats for a couple of classic matches and Tank Abbott in a wacky skit.

Ufc_116_button_medium

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Bloody Elbow

You must be a member of Bloody Elbow to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Bloody Elbow. You should read them.

Join Bloody Elbow

You must be a member of Bloody Elbow to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Bloody Elbow. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_5349_tracker