Why is the Transition between Professional Wrestling and MMA so difficult?

Why is the Transition between Professional Wrestling and MMA so difficult?

WWE and UFC have a lot in common: they’re both sports with high-profile fighters. Over the years, some fighters have crossed the divide, going on to participate in both professional wrestling and MMA, yet few have truly excelled in both sports.

So, why is the transition between these fighting sports so tricky when both are physically taxing and demand the same caliber of physicality from disciplined athletes? For example, stars like the Undertaker have been long admirers of MMA and possibly could have chosen that route if it was more popular when he was coming up in the 90s. 

Fight Preparation

Professional wrestling and MMA may be held within a ring, but they couldn’t be more different in preparation. Fights that take place in the octagon require months of training to get fighters at not only a particular weight but also fight-ready. A fighter’s training camp could even affect betting odds. For example, in November, UFC betting has Max Holloway favored at -400 in his bout against Yair Rodriguez. If word were to get out of Max Holloway having a terrible training camp between now and the fight, UFC betting tips would start to advise people that Yair Rodriguez may be the safer bet. 

Everything impacts the fighter in MMA when it comes to preparation, and it’s a very personal experience. It could also affect the psyche of both fighters heading into a contest and significantly impact the result.

When it comes to professional wrestling preparation, it takes its toll on wrestlers due to its demanding nature but doesn’t always impact a fight. The wrestling circuit’s rigors have its superstars usually performing week in and week out, while they also have to maintain their impressive physiques and athleticism.

The preparation is quite different in that they are consistently performing rather than just training months at a time for one contest. It, in turn, would be difficult for a participant to adjust their mindset and body to a completely different training regiment. 

Ruthless Fighting

Another crucial difference between the two is the amount of ruthless aggression found between the two. Professional wrestling is no joke and requires copious belligerence, but there is still a line not to cross. Wrestlers are there to put on a show and do death-defying acts of athleticism to entertain their fans and want to protect their fellow superstars. 

A wrestler like Brock Lesnar can successfully transition due to his amateur wrestling background and aggressive man-beast nature. Ronda Rousey seemed to lose an edge when Holly Holm beat her in the UFC, and eventually, it led her to become a successful WWE superstar. Her persona and dedication helped her make the transition, some things MMA stars don’t always have. MMA fighters also may become enamored with ruthless aggression and wouldn’t want to give it up to pursue a career in professional wrestling. 

Octagon vs. Ring

Another more schematic reason that the transition could be difficult is the differences between the octagon and the ring. There is no escape when you’re in the octagon; it’s just you against your opponent with everyone watching. People want to be entertained, but they essentially don’t care how you win as long as you do. 

In the ring, you have to play to the crowd; you are wrestling, but those who can’t engage with the audience can’t successfully integrate as pro wrestlers. There are also the many facets of the ring: the ropes, the turnbuckles, the outside, different types of matches, etc. Many factors can decide a wrestling match, but there’s only one way to come out of the octagon.

These transitions may not sound complicated, but there is a lot to be said for dedicating your entire life to a specific craft and then trying to change later in life. You would also be expected to make it to the pinnacle of the other profession reasonably quickly, which in any other line of work would be astounding.