Sat 08 January 2022 | 13:00

10 UFC fighters who played other sports

Although the UFC is the most popular promotion in the sport of ‘mixed’ martial arts, you would never deem it to be that much of a mixed to see even footballers, and other athletes competing under its banner. So let's dig deep to know 10 UFC fighters who played other sports.

As MMA has gained ever more popularity in the world of sport, it has tempted some people to assume themselves qualified enough to be successful in this blood-and-bone sport as well in addition to their original career.

While we have counted down a few of them on the sportmob list of

The smartest MMA fighters of all time

, this tendency is a lot more widespread in athletes, especially those who are playing compact sports, or sport that requires gruesome athletic bodies like American football.

This sport is more correlated to MMA than any other sport because the nature of gridiron and Octagon both mandates lifelong body training and physical built-up.

That is why most of the 10 UFC fighters who played other sports enlisted here are footballers, while there are also some basketball players, baseball players, rugby players as well as combat athletes like wrestlers included in our list too.

Therefore much to your consternation, it is quite fascinating that a number of top UFC fighters are some of the greatest athletes on the planet, who have an awful lot of experiences not only in MMA but also in other sports.

Even more shocking is the fact that some of them even has reached the highest level of their respective sports before switching to MMA and competing in the greatest promotion of MMA.

10 UFC fighters who played other sports

Here we have delved into the ups and downs of the athletic journey of 10 UFC fighters who played other sports.

Eryk Anders (American football)

The former American football linebacker, who played college football at the University of Alabama, currently is a professional MMA fighter who fights in the Middleweight category of the UFC.

As one of the UFC fighters who played other sports, he was a linebacker for the Crimson Tide team for 3 years from 2006 until 2009 as he started 14 games in his senior season. Moreover, he had got contracted with the NFL team Cleveland Browns too.

While Ya Boi was playing for Nick Saban at the University of Alabama, he could amazingly win a BCS National Championship in 2009, in a game against the Texas Longhorns, where he led the Crimson Tide with seven tackles and a forced fumble.

Following that he graduated from college, he made an agreement with the Cleveland Browns of the NFL. In his American football career, he also spent spans playing for the Canadian Football League and the Arena Football League until he made his mind to compete in mixed martial arts.

Hopefully, his decision turned out to be very logical, because as soon as he started fighting he grabbed 9 triumphs in a row until he was offered to compete in the UFC.

This has been a solid career choice. He won 8 fights in a row before being offered a deal by the UFC. Even at the UFC, he could manage to have a rather impressive career, and with the career record of 14-6-1-1, he has grabbed 6 of his victories under the banner of UFC.

While in his most recent fight, he was tapped out with armbar by André Muniz in UFC 269, throughout his careers whether in National Champion football or Octagon, Eryk Anders went through a compelling life.

Travis Browne (Basketball)

The former American MMA fighter who is included on the retired UFC fighters list had competed in the Heavyweight category of the promotion while he used to play basketball in his high school and college too.

That is to say, being considered as one of the UFC fighters who played other sports, he was blessed with a good body frame that enabled him to exceed not only in MMA but also in basketball.

When he was attending high school in San Diego, he was superb in playing basketball to the point that he was quite the baller in his teenage years and even went on to win the 2000 Coastal North League Player of the Year too.

Afterwards, he continued playing basketball for Palomar College until the time that he came out of the sport, finding a new passion for jiu-jitsu.

While in his mid-20s, he was introduced to Brazilian jiu-jitsu he had not the slightest experience in any martial arts, yet he also started training in boxing, becoming a professional fighter in less than a year.

He started his MMA career competing in the promotions like Bellator Fighting Championships, Gladiator Challenge, and King of the Cage and after amassing an unbeaten winning streak of 9–0, he joined the UFC.

With a career record of 14-7-1, he could topple some UFC giants such as Matt Mitrione, Brendan Schaub, Josh Barnett, Gabriel Gonzaga and Alistair Overeem.

Be that as it may, because he had already conceded three consecutive fights when he was beaten by Alexey Oleynik via submission in the second round at UFC 213, Dana White preferred to make him retire.

Here it is notable to suggest that he has been in a relationship with former Women's Bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey since 2015 and has currently married to her, who is an indispensable part of Sportmob's

30 Hottest UFC Female Fighters


Walt Harris (Basketball)

The American MMA fighter who currently fights in the Heavyweight category of the UFC is one of the other

10 UFC fighters who played other sports


Being the #14 fighter in the UFC heavyweight rankings, as of December 13, 2021, before he became a professional fighter in 2011 and started to compete in smaller promotions of MMA, he used to play basketball.

While he played just one season of college basketball for Jacksonville State University, he rejected NBA tryout offers after college so as to join MMA.

Since his UFC debut occurred in 2013, he went on to establish himself as one of the top UFC fighters who is widely revered for his large frame and knockout power.

To be specific, with a career record of 13-5-1, all of 13 victories were grabbed through knockout, and amazingly six of them was in the UFC, while his most impressive triumph took place in 2019, where he beat Aleksei Oleinik just in 12 seconds of the game.

Confronting a raft of MMA veterans like Alistair Overeem, Andrei Arlovski, and Fabricio Werdum, it seems that his time on the basketball court has made a positive influence on his performance in the octagon.

To be specific what has helped him a lot in his fighting is the footwork he learned in playing basketball, which worked miracles in his heavyweight category.

The interesting fact is, because The Big Ticket can perform what he learned in the drop step of basketball at the time of pivoting, he would excel in the octagon a lot more than the other heavyweights that can not move as he does.

Greg Hardy (American Football)

The American MMA fighter who currently fights in the heavyweight category of the UFC has a special place among our

10 UFC fighters who played other sports


Because he gained much of his popularity through his football career rather than MMA, this means that he was not just a usual football player, instead, for a span of his football career, he was one of the greatest defensive players in the National Football League (NFL).

Roughly speaking, he played college football at Ole Miss and was chosen by the Panthers in the sixth round of the 2010 NFL Draft and went on to gain popularity playing for the Carolina Panthers.

With his playing at an elite level in the NFL, he could rack up 40 career sacks, 238 total tackles, and 8 forced fumbles.

Amazingly during 2012 and 2013, he had two seasons where he had over 10 sacks. Not to mention that he even made the Pro-Bowl in 2013 following setting a career-best 15 sacks that season.

But unfortunately, he created a bottleneck for himself when notwithstanding his 6 productive seasons, he became suspended in 2014 in the cope of a domestic violence charge.

Even worse than that, he was caught by the police and finally coped with criminal charges for that domestic violence.

Despite having some charges dropped, between 2014 and 2016, he could not get out of the negative public eye, which eventually saw him end his NFL career.

Following that he sat a year out, he got contracted with the Dallas Cowboys in 2015 and after a mediocre season, he was transmitted to MMA, without having a prior martial art background.

Thereby he started his MMA career in 2016 and after grabbing triumph in some major amateur bouts, he was attracted by the UFC President Dana White and has currently a rather successful MMA career.

Dominick Reyes (American Football)

The American professional MMA fighter who currently competes in the Heavyweight category of the UFC is one of the

10 UFC fighters who played other sports


Because he was formerly a college football player, with a career record of 12 wins and 3 losses he is now considered to have a huge MMA career, to such an extent that he is the #7 fighter in the UFC Light Heavyweight rankings, as of November 2, 2021.

He started playing high school football, and then went on to play college football for Stony Brook University where he became an incredibly talented Strong Safety for the Division-1’s Stony Brook Seawolves.

As a four year starter in the Seawolves, he managed to rack up more than 200 tackles, while even in 2010, he led the Big South League in tackles and is assumed to be the all-time tackles leader for Stony Brook too.

After graduation from Stony Brook, although he received attention from NFL teams, due to his 'average' speed, eventually he went undrafted in the 2013 NFL Draft.

Then after attending tryouts for the Canadian Football League, and getting invitations to join them, he was reluctant to play for a league that was not top-level and it was a time when he preferred to take up MMA instead.

While it took three years for him to achieve a Blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, he was busy working a normal day job that he could manage to make an illustrious MMA career as well, being currently considered as a regular top contender in the UFC Light Heavyweight category.

That is to say following an outstanding 12-fight winning streak in his category, he was granted a title fight with Jon Jones who is arguably one of

The Greatest MMA Fighters of All Time


Reyes amazingly gave 'Bones' the toughest fight of his career and although he conceded the fight via decision, he is assumed to be the winner by many MMA fans around the world.

Brendan Schaub (American Football)

Although Brendan Schaub has gained much of his popularity through his MMA career as well as his successful stand-up comedian and podcast host, many people do not even know that he had a football journey, let alone know his big run in the sport too.

During high school, he used to play both football and lacrosse. But, because he was not granted any college scholarships for either sport, he tried out for the football and lacrosse teams at Whittier College.

He was so successful that saw him make both teams, and get a football scholarship offer from the University of Colorado. As a result, he played college football for the University of Colorado, however, he went undrafted in the 2006 NFL Draft.

He had also a short span with the NFL's Buffalo Bills until he was released and started playing for the Arena Football League's Utah Blaze. Yet, following just one season with the team, he retired from football so as to begin his MMA career.

After that he could grab triumph in his first four MMA fights, he agreed to compete in the 2009 version of The Ultimate Fighter. Although he ended up being beaten by Roy Nelson in the Finale of the show, he proved himself qualified enough to be attracted by the UFC.

After that he won 6 fights in the UFC, he became retired in 2014 so as to be included on the


UFC fighters List

. Fortunately, ever since then, he has been doing pretty well for himself as a podcaster, taking golden opportunities in whatever field he enters.

Brock Lesnar (American Football- Wrestling)

As one of

The most overrated UFC fighters of all time

, Brock Lesnar is considered to be among the few fighters who have done multiple sports.

Following his successful amateur and professional wrestling achievements, he made his mind to realize his dream of playing in the NFL, and then he went on to head into MMA so as to be enlisted among popular UFC fighters too.

To be specific, he started with wrestling, being a pretty successful collegiate wrestler who won the NCAA Heavyweight Championship and then transitioned his success into the WWE for a span of 3 years.

But because the schedule for WWE was too difficult for him, he transitioned into football and even though he had never played high school nor college football, he was provided with the opportunity of trying out for the Minnesota Vikings.

Therefore, he played in his home state's Minnesota Vikings in 2004 as a Defensive Tackle in pre-season for the team.

Although he was released preceding the season beginning, he was offered a role to be a Viking's representative in NFL Europa, yet he declined the offer to stay in the United States with his family.

Afterwards, he jumped into MMA, and it took not a long time for him to join the UFC, where he won the UFC Heavyweight Title and as a huge blockbuster attraction, he led them to grow exponentially.

Yet ever since he tested for a banned substance, he did not compete in the UFC, however it is speculated that he would come back again.

Alexander Volkanovski (Rugby)

It's quite unbelievable to indicate that one of the fighters enlisted on the Sportmob's

UFC Current Champions: Who is the most dominant belt holder?

used to play rugby at the highest level weighing more than 220 pounds.

Having in mind that he is amazingly the #2 in the UFC men's pound-for-pound rankings as of October 25, 2021, and therefore his being considered among the

top UFC fighters

, you would agree with us to deem his transformation as nothing short of amazing.

That is to say although, he had a small frame, he tended to regularly play professional rugby at over 200 poundsfor the Warilla-Lake South Gorillas in the South Coast Rugby League, to the point that he won the Cronin medal in 2010 for the best player in the league.

Following that he led the South Gorillas to the victory in the Grand Final in 2011 over the Gerringong Lions, he jumped into training MMA at the age of 23 years old.

It took not a long time for him that he became an excellent counter striker with a powerful overhand right and a brilliant offensive wrestler.

He initially fought in a number of amateur fights in the middleweight category so as to adjust from his rugby weight. Then he became professional and moved down to welterweight, lightweight and finally the featherweight division where he could grab the UFC featherweight championship.

Matt Mitrione (American Football)

One of the popular UFC fighters who fought for both the UFC and most recently for Bellator MMA had built out a successful football career and even played professionally in the NFL too.

He initially played college ball for the Purdue Boilermakers, having 35 starts at defensive tackle. But unfortunately, because he underwent a broken foot, he went undrafted in the 2002 NFL Draft.

Hopefully, when he healed up, The New York Giants, took a chance on him, however, injuries created bottlenecks in his career.

Apart from sustaining foot injuries, he had 7 surgeries to fix the issue as one of them was even done to extend his Achilles Tendon, which kept him on crutches for a full 16 months.

Therefore he was released by The Giants and although he went on to play with some other teams like the San Francisco 49ers, and Minnesota Vikings, he became retired in 2005.

Afterwards, although he started his MMA career very late, in his early 30s, he went on to become one of the 

Famous southpaw UFC fighters


With a background in Shotokan Karate, he took a black belt in martial art, and soon he was offered to fight for Jayson Werth‘s inaugural promotion.

Although this effort did not reach anywhere, soon he was provided with the opportunity to become a member of the 2009 Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights edition.

He succeeded to win his fight in the Finale of the show and thereby got contracted with the UFC, and ever since then, he has had wins over some giants like Kimbo Slice, Gabriel Gonzaga, Derrick Lewis, Roy Nelson, and most notably heavyweight fighter, Fedor Emelianenko who is considered to be among

The most intimidating MMA fighters ever


Stipe Miocic (Baseball)

Being widely revered as one of the greatest UFC heavyweights of all time, he is the multiple-time UFC champion who has beaten some of the giants like Daniel Cormier, Junior Dos Santos, Francis Ngannou, and Alistair Overeem just to name a few.

So as one of the

popular UFC fighters

who has grabbed the spot #9 in the UFC men's pound-for-pound rankings as of November 2, 2021, he utterly deserves to be enlisted among the

Best MMA fighters in each weight class ever


But what is most amazing of all is the fact that before building such an illustrious MMA career, he used to play baseball at an elite level as well so he is an indispensable member of our 10 UFC fighters who played other sports

In other words, he played college baseball for Trevecca Nazarene University and Cleveland State University, while his best year was in 2005 where he batted.344 with seven home runs so as to lead the Trevecca to the TranSouth Athletic Conference tournament championship.

Then although MLB teams were interested in him, he preferred to transition into MMA, where he proved to be utterly successful, yet for some reason, he has taken a spot in the Sportmob's list of

The most underrated UFC fighters of all time

, in case you are interested, it is no harm reading it.


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source: SportMob

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