Ten years ago this week, MMATorch published a column by Jesse Hauser about the prospects of Olympic Gold Medalist and pro wrestler Kurt Angle becoming an MMA fighter.
Kurt Angle to compete in MMA. In 1998 everyone would have automatically put him at the top of the list for future champion. In 2006, thoughts are dramatically different. The main reason for this change of heart is the toll his body has taken over the last few years in the WWE. We all know that he won the gold medal with a “broken freaking’ neck,” but at that time he didn’t have perform in the ring for the vast majority of the year.
Kurt Angle was (or is, depending on how you look at it) a great athlete – there’s no doubt about that – but his body is failing. With all his health and personal issues, there is no way I believe he can be considered even a contender in MMA. Even if he spent the next two to three years training on his striking and other skills, could he count on his body holding up? Being an Olympic Gold Medalist wrestler is an awesome start to being a great MMA fighter, but in the current state the sport is in I don’t think its enough.
The next thing to look at would be his competition. In a letter posted on his website, he states that he’s gotten up to a healthy 240 pounds and has about 85 percent full flexibility. His weight would put him in a heavyweight class in almost all MMA organizations. If he were to enter at this weight he would be in competition with fighters the likes of Mirko “CroCop” Filipovic, Fedor Emelianenko, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Mark Coleman, Andrei Arvloski, Tim Sylvia, and at his last weigh in Wanderlei Silva (who in my opinion looks like he could be a long lost brother, or at least a great stunt double, for Kurt.) Does anyone think that he could step in and hang with this group of fighters with only one year or less of MMA training? Even if he cuts enough weight to get to Light Heavyweight, he’ll have to deal with Ortiz, Liddell, Wanderlei Silva (again), Mauricio Rua, etc.
Kurt would most likely have to start off with an exhibition fight. As soon as this announcement was made, Daniel Puder’s name was thrown in the ring. Everyone who is a fan of WWE saw Puder take on Angle in a “Tough Enough” segment and immediately put Angle in a keylock, to which Angle seemed very surprised. Of course Angle was not prepared for this, and in the confines of the WWE, Puder was pinned because his back was on the ground and the referee made the three count.
I believe that a motivated and healthy Angle would be able to take on someone like Puder to begin with, but after that who’s next? Ken Shamrock, Royce Gracie, Matt Hughes, Cabbage Correira, maybe Brock Lesnar? I think that there could be tremendous interest in an MMA fight between Shamrock or Lesnar and Angle. Everyone who didn’t see Booker T and Batista have a real fight at a commercial shoot would then see what happens when (former) Pro Wrestlers fight each other for real.
At least with MMA there is a real “wellness policy” as fighters have to pass physicals before they can fight. They also have to pass drug tests both before and after the fight. If Angle is serious about making a run in the MMA world, this could be both his savior and burden. He’ll be forced to be healthy and drug free before he enters the ring or cage. He’ll also have to stay clean in order to fight again.
Would Kurt Angle make any money in MMA? Of course he would. To quote Wade Keller from his news post on this subject, “He stands to make a lot of money even if his first fight is a mismatch in his favor.” Kurt Angle could fight Jeremy Jackson, the fighter from the current season of The Ultimate Fighter who “escaped” the house to meet up with a lifeguard he met at the YMCA, and the building would be packed and pay-per-view buys would be great. In my opinion, Angle getting a huge one time payoff for a fight would be the worst thing that could happen.
Kurt Angle is uber-competitive; that’s been widely reported. If he got a huge purse for fighting, not to mention if he won the fight, then one can only think that he would want to fight more often. Unless he can end most of his fights quickly and with taking a minimum of damage, he won’t be able to fight more than two to three times a year. While this reduced schedule would seem to be right what Angle needs, would he be able to stay away from competition that long? Granted, he won’t turn in to someone like Jeremy Horn who said he used to go to an event, compete, get his money, and then drive all night to the next city for the next fight. He will however push himself to fight as much as possible, and isn’t that what got him in the situation he’s in now?
Ultimately the choice is his and his alone. No one can make him choose to slow down and enjoy the life that the years of hard work, blood, sweat, and tears have helped to bring. People writing articles like this one can’t tell him to stay home and enjoy being a father and husband. Working in the casino gaming industry like I do, we have a saying: “The only free thing is advice.” I’m not pretending to know what Angle is going through right now, and never would but, I do hope he takes the advice.
CHECK OUT THE PREVIOUS 10 YRS AGO FLASHBACK: 10 YRS AGO: An introduction to a lot of new faces scheduled for Saturday’s UFC 63 PPV – Lauzon, Tyson, Huerta, more