There’s always a healthy degree of skepticism when it comes to cross-over athletes. A few have enjoyed success, like Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders and Dennis Rodman (or was he a cross-dressing success?), but remember when Michael Jordan tried his hand at baseball? Yikes.
The world of mixed martial arts is no stranger to two-sport athletes, although the best examples have all left behind their former sports to pursue a full-time career in MMA. Boxers like Tommy Morrison and Ray Mercer, Olympic wrestlers like Bodog Fight’s own Matt Lindland, and pro wrestlers like Brock Lesnar and Daniel Puder.
The 25-year-old Puder won World Wrestling Entertainment’s first “Tough Enough Challenge” in 2004, but he drew the ire of Vince McMahon by straying from the promoter’s plan to have the popular Kurt Angle punish him during a WWE event. Instead, Puder humiliated Angle in front of a live audience by trapping the former Olympic Gold Medal wrestler in a “key lock”. Angle has vowed revenge ever since.
If he wants his reprisal, Angle will have to follow Puder to MMA, but it won’t be easy. Puder is undefeated in four fights heading into his heavyweight bout with Michael Alden on the next episode of Bodog Fight: Paradise Lost this Tuesday, July 3rd at 11 p.m. / 10 p.m. Central on ION television and in Canada on The Fight Network.
The 23-year-old Alden is also undefeated at 6-0, and is expected to provide Puder with his toughest test to date. But Puder says his wrestling pedigree has prepared him well for the rigors of MMA.
“I think that pro-wrestling toughens you up,” he says. “You’re falling more, you’re being dropped more and you can get hurt a lot quicker. I’ve been flash KO’d a few times and I had to keep going in the match.”
But according to Bodog Fight founder Calvin Ayre, cross-over MMA athletes like Puder are the exception rather than the rule.
“MMA is such a multi-dimentional sport that most cross-over athletes find the transition difficult, so bringing them into an organization like Bodog Fight requires a different approach,” says Ayre. “You have to assess their progress carefully. Matching them up with appropriate opponents can sometimes be difficult.”
If Angle does eventually make the jump to MMA, Ayre would have no problem finding him an opponent.
“Puder would be the obvious choice, but Kurt would probably want to get a few fights under his belt first,” says Ayre. “But as a fan, I’d love to see that fight.”