The worlds of combat sports and professional wrestling continue to get crossed over through star performers moving between the two. We’ve seen MMA stars like Ronda Rousey go big in the WWE, boxers like Tyson Fury continue what is almost a tradition of matches in the WWE, and professional wrestlers like Dan Severn come to the UFC.
In 2021, there are plenty of former MMA fighters in the WWE roster, with some of them being well-positioned to have a shot at one of the company’s biggest events of the year. On 31 January, in Florida, these are the former octagon fighters who will be hunting glory in the squared circle.
One of the most famous modern athletes to crossover between the UFC and WWE, Brock Lesnar is counted among the favourites of the Royal Rumble 2021 odds, sitting at 8/1 to win the 30-man battle royale. The odds stand ‘The Beast Incarnate’ as the fourth favourite, sitting just behind the 7/1 Big E, Keith Lee at 4/1, and the favoured Daniel Bryan (6/5).
After one K-1 bout, Lesnar’s star power was brought to the UFC, where he amassed a 4-3 record, losing two of his last three bouts and having his final fight ruled a no contest. In the WWE, however, Lesnar has ruled the ring as the Universal Champion and set records across the board, including during the Royal Rumble, as shown by Forbes.
The one title that’s eluded me my entire career is the WWE Championship.
Next time I have the opportunity to get a shot at @DMcIntyreWWE, I won’t miss.
— Bobby Lashley (@fightbobby) December 29, 2020
He’s certainly an outside shot due to being turned into one of the company’s top heels, but Bobby Lashley’s recent run of protection could hint to him being given favour by the CEO, Vince McMahon. Sportz Wiki says that Lashley was the second wrestler to declare themselves as a part of Royal Rumble 2021, with him being very clear in his intent to triumph and make it to WrestleMania 37.
In his MMA career, which ‘The Dominator’ has reportedly sought to restart, Lashley climbed to a 15-2 record, most recently competing in Bellator. From 2014 to 2016, the WWE heel won all five of his fights – two via a rear-naked choke and three via punches. At 50/1, he’s a wild card for the Royal Rumble, but he’s one of the few wrestlers seemingly being positioned as a potential winner to land a big fight against the champion.
In the ring, CM Punk has been able to amass quite the professional record under the WWE banner, but his stint in the octagon didn’t go quite as well. The welterweight from Chicago, Illinois was brought straight into the UFC, making his debut in 2016. The much-hyped crossover saw CM Punk lose via submission to Mickey Gall. Just under two years later, he returned to face Mike Jackson but lost by unanimous decision.
As he stated in a WWE Backstage episode, he’d also fallen on hard times in the WWE. Picked to triumph in the 2008 Royal Rumble, John Cena’s late return from injury quickly had the CEO change his selected champion. Outside of this, he was granted passage to glory on several occasions, standing as a seven-time world champion and partaking in a memorable 2014 WrestleMania. Reportedly still retired, the bookies have him at 25/1 to make a surprise return and win the 2021 Royal Rumble.
Not the favourite by any means, but Lesnar, Lashley, and CM Punk all seem to be in the mix for the 2021 Royal Rumble.