Crossover between the worlds of mixed martial arts and professional wrestling is nothing new. From MMA pioneers like Ken Shamrock to modern stars like Paige VanZant, the place where these two combat sports collide has provided mixed results. For every Dan Severn, there is a Tito Ortiz lurking nearby.
There is much overlap in the Venn Diagram of skills needed to excel in each sport. Despite this, being a great fighter doesn't necessarily translate into being a great pro wrestler. Both require a physical and mental toughness unknown to most. Both require showmanship and hustle, but the devil is in the detail.
Hurting someone is not the same as making look as though you're hurting someone. Promo/interview skills are different, and winning a fight isn't the same as getting over with a crowd.
Each generation of MMA has produced new professional wrestlers. Organizations such as the UFC, Bellator, PFL and others are now providing a deeper well of talent from which to draw. While by no means an exclusive list, these ten have the meddle to take their business to the squared circle.
10. Ryan "Darth" Bader
He's not the flashiest talker, but Ryan "Darth" Bader's pedigree and freak athleticism make wrestling a viable retirement option for the Bellator Heavyweight Champ.
Ryan Bader is a two-time wrestling All-American. He's been competing professionally in mixed martial arts since 2008. He has been a two-division champion in Bellator, capturing both the Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight Titles. He is still currently the Bellator Heavyweight champ, but he is also close to 40 years old.
While some over-40 MMA fighters are still performing at a high level, mixed martial arts is a job with a short expiration date. "Darth" Bader likely has five or less competitive years left in the cage. Someone of his status and ability could show up at either WWE or AEW and put in a solid run as a babyface. In the vein of a Bret "Hitman" Hart, Bader would shine as a top technician who speaks when necessary, but prefers to let his ring skills do the talking.
Fantasy Match: Power vs. Agility as Ryan Bader faces Matt Riddle in a shoot-style match that showcases Bader's strength and athleticism.