This weekend at UFC 203, former WWE superstar CM Punk is set to make his professional mixed martial arts debut in the Octagon against Mickey Gall. Gall has been training combat sports since he was a teen and has several wins under his belt. Aside from attending Brazilian jiu jitsu classes sporadically, Punk is relying on the past two years of intense training at Team Roufusport to carry him through the fight.
Jumping right into the deep end against a much more experienced opponent is a tall order for anyone, and Punk will be doing it in front of millions who are tuning in specifically to see if he’ll succeed or fail. What are his chances looking like? He’s not the first person to test his relatively raw skills in the cage. Let’s take a look at ten other celebrities who dared to strap on the four ounce gloves and how they did.
Bam Bam Bigelow
The late Bam Bam Bigelow is no stranger to the generation of WWE fans that grew up watching VHS rentals from the local video store. At 400 pounds with a head covered in red flame tattoos, he looked like a legitimate bad ass. But after 1993, anyone hoping to survive in the cage needed to understand Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. If you didn’t, you were going to have a very bad time. To make matters worse, the Japanese promoters booked Bigelow against Kimo Leopoldo, an experienced veteran famous for being the first to put a dent in Royce Gracie’s aura of invincibility.
Kimo didn’t even throw a single punch before lunging for a single leg takedown, taking Bam Bam to the mat with ease. From there he spent the next three minutes in mount raining down punches on the pro wrestler. Bigelow could do nothing but flail his arms as shot after bare knuckle shot bounced off his skull. It’s not an easy beatdown to watch, and it goes on for way longer than it should have before Kimo switched to his jiu jitsu and choked Bigelow out. On the plus side, Bam Bam took home a $100,000 check for his troubles, so that’s nice.
We doubt Steve Williams, known in the pro wrestling biz as Dr. Death, made anywhere near as much as Bam Bam when he faced kickboxer Alexey Ignashov at a K-1 MMA event in Japan. Ignashov was already an ISKA World Heavyweight Champion and multiple K-1 Grand Prix champion, and he took Williams apart with ruthless efficiency in 21 seconds. All those brutal knees and kicks Steve took before faceplanting make Bam Bam’s ordeal under Kimo look like a luxurious Swedish massage in comparison.
It’s fights like this that make so many fans scream internally whenever someone without enough experience gets matched up against a proper professional fighter. There’s no way this fight should have been allowed to happen. Unfortunately for Dr. Death, there’s no independent athletic commission in Japan looking out for fighter safety and making sure opponents are evenly matched.
Years after the Dr. Death debacle, K-1 recruited another celebrity to try out MMA: Johnnie Morton, a 12 year NFL veteran who was a wide receiver for the Lions, Chiefs, and 49ers. The fight promotion dangled a $100,000 purse in front of Morton to convince him to fight, and once he accepted, he didn’t have a whole lot of time to get ready. “I wish I had more time to prepare,” he said leading up to his bout. “I have only been [formally training MMA] for two months, but I try to learn at an accelerated rate.”