I blame Brock Lesnar.
He's the one who did this to us. He's the reason every pro wrestler who ever slapped on a sleeper hold thinks he can flip the switch and become a real fighter now. They see all the money Lesnar's making as UFC heavyweight champion, the respect he's getting, and they can't help but wonder whether there's a place in the MMA business for them. After all, how hard can it be?
Answer: hard. Really hard.
Not that I'm under the false impression that pro wrestling isn't difficult, mind you. I understand that being on the road a few hundred days out of the year, living in hotels and airports and still being forced to take your shirt off on TV every week is no cushy job. You need toughness to take those bumps every night, but it's a different kind of toughness.
The latest former WWE human action figure to start thinking out loud about an MMA career is Dave Batista. He told TMZ recently that he's planning to fight for Strikeforce, and though Strikeforce officials initially denied that claim, they seem to be coming around to the idea now.
Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker told Sherdog.com this week that a Batista signing was "a possibility," adding, "We're not the guys that are putting all the circus fights on, but in all fairness, look at Brock Lesnar. He made the crossover. Why not Batista?"
It's a fair question, and one that deserves a fair answer, so here goes:
• Batista is 41 years old; Lesnar is 32.
• Batista worked as a bar bouncer, then got into bodybuilding before becoming a pro wrestler; Lesnar was a Division I national champion wrestler (the real kind) for the University of Minnesota.
• Lesnar spent only a few years in the WWE, then went and tried out for the Minnesota Vikings before turning to MMA; Batista spent the better part of a decade battering his body in the WWE, then retired and talked himself into thinking he could become a real fighter despite having no background in combat sports.
Does that about cover the "Why not Batista?" question?
Maybe not for Coker, who already has one former pro wrestler on the roster in Bobby Lashley. So far, that grand experiment hasn't exactly panned out. Even though Lashley has some legitimate college wrestling credentials and a good deal of mat time at American Top Team, he's still proving to be something of a reluctant warrior, preferring easily winnable squash matches to real challenges.
Still, Coker claims that a non-scripted fight between Lashley and Batista could be "a fun fight to watch." Fun for whom, and for what reasons, is what I'd like to know.
It's not hard to see what Coker is after here. He wants his own Lesnar. He wants a proven draw to siphon off some mainstream fans and generate a few headlines in the process. He wants Lesnar Lite.
But just because Batista and Lesnar share one former employer, it doesn't mean they have much else in common as far as athletic ability. Sure, you've got to be mentally and physically tough to last in the WWE for as long as he did, but that doesn't mean he's only a few jiu-jitsu classes away from becoming a serious MMA fighter.
I would have thought the people at Strikeforce would realize that. I also would have hoped that they'd respect the intelligence of the fans enough to know that we realize it too.
It's not that I think having a history as a pro wrestler disqualifies a person automatically. I just think that having no serious background in martial arts training before your early 40s ought to make us wonder if this is a serious pursuit, or just an attention-getting gimmick for a guy who's missing the limelight more than he thought he would.