Many former NFL players already boast the impressive size and speed that helps with the transition to MMA. Brock Lesnar – who once held the title of UFC Heavyweight Champion – was briefly on the Minnesota Vikings pre-season squad.
In previous years, players have made the transition to boxing successfully so it’s no surprise to see ex-NFL pros transitioning to MMA. Let’s look at some of the pros who made their way into MMA and found success:
The former Dallas Cowboys and Carolina Panthers defensive end was awarded a contract with the UFC recently after scoring a first-round knockout during his professional MMA debut against fellow ex-NFL player Austen Lane in April. The fight ended after Hardy knocked out Lane in just 57 seconds. Hardy expressed his excitement stating “I just want to get back in the ring. Whatever show it is, I just want another opportunity to fight. Man, I’m having the time of my life and really enjoying it.”
Drafted by the Chicago Bears in 1997, Sapp was released and picked up by the Vikings. He was on Minnesota’s roster for two seasons but only played one game. Sapp has had a longer career in MMA with his current record standing at 11-20. He was a big draw in Japan fighting in K-1, and has competed in promotions across Pride, Stikeforce and Dream.
He played three games as an offensive lineman with the Atlanta Falcons in 2000. He took a break from competitive athletics and spent time as a police officer and an actor before making the transition to MMA. From 2007-10, he earned a professional record of 7-1 fighting in Strikeforce and Elite XC.
The most successful football player on this list, Walker was an athlete who could do it all. He won the 1982 Heisman Trophy, played on four NFL teams over an 11-year career, and competed in the Olympics on the U.S. bobsled team. In 2010, at 47, he competed in Strikeforce and won. He was 2-0 in two fights between 2010-11.
A first-round draft pick in 1996, he had a successful career as a defensive end for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1996 -2001. Turning to MMA after football, he racked up a 4-2 record with his last fight being the finale for UFC’s Ultimate Fighter 10 against fellow ex-NFL pro Matt Mitrione. On that note …
He played two seasons in the NFL with the Vikings and New York Giants before making his way into MMA. Mitrione started his career with a win against Marcus Jones and has continued to fight with a respectable 13-5 record. Besides Hardy, he’s the only player currently fighting, and last February won by decision against Roy Nelson at Bellator 194.