Kurt Angle, the former Olympic wrestling gold medalist, is widely recognized for his achievements in the world of professional wrestling. However, a lesser-known fact is that he had multiple opportunities to venture into the realm of mixed martial arts (MMA) with the UFC. In this article, we will delve into Angle’s encounters with MMA and explore the “what if” scenario of his potential career as an MMA fighter.
Angle’s Temptation to Try MMA
In 2006, Kurt Angle, fresh off a successful run with WWE, expressed his interest in testing the waters of MMA. Angle’s manager reached out to the UFC, and he was flown to Las Vegas for a meeting with Dana White, the president of the promotion. Despite being offered an opportunity, Angle had to decline due to his existing contract with Total Nonstop Action (TNA), a wrestling promotion that did not allow him to simultaneously compete in MMA and professional wrestling.
Kurt Angle’s achievements in the realm of athletics cannot be overstated. He is a revered figure in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and the WWE Hall of Fame. As an NCAA heavyweight champion and a winner of the 1996 Summer Olympics gold medal in freestyle wrestling, Angle’s legacy is firmly rooted in his wrestling prowess.
The UFC’s Early Offer
Immediately after Kurt Angle’s Olympic triumph, he received an offer from the UFC. At the time, the promotion was owned by Semaphore Entertainment Group (SEG), long before its multi-billion dollar success. Angle was offered a contract worth $150,000 for fifteen fights. However, considering the financial aspect and the toll it would take on his body, Angle opted for a career in WWE, where he experienced great success.
In 2009, after concluding his tenure with TNA, Angle had another chance to explore MMA through appearing on The Ultimate Fighter reality show. The UFC offered him $500,000 for the show and a subsequent contract with the promotion. However, at 41 years old and having suffered multiple neck injuries, Angle realized that he had passed his prime and declined the opportunity.
Brock Lesnar, Angle’s close friend and fellow amateur wrestling champion, made a successful transition from WWE to the UFC. Angle admitted that Lesnar’s move sparked his interest in MMA. He viewed Lesnar’s achievements, as well as the rise of the UFC’s popularity, with intrigue. However, considering his already flourishing career in professional wrestling, Angle elected not to pursue MMA at that time.
Kurt Angle’s influence extended beyond his own aspirations in MMA. When Daniel Cormier sought advice on his future, Angle advised him to prioritize MMA over professional wrestling. Cormier followed Angle’s guidance and went on to become a two-division UFC champion. Angle believes that Cormier would have excelled in the world of pro wrestling as well, showcasing his charisma and wrestling skills.
The Lingering “What If”
Despite Angle’s remarkable success in professional wrestling, he still wonders about the alternate path he might have taken in MMA. Seeing his friend Lesnar become a UFC champion and witnessing other familiar faces dominate the sport, Angle sometimes contemplates his decision. However, when reflecting on his stellar career and the impact he made in wrestling, Angle finds solace in his choices.
Kurt Angle’s flirtation with the idea of pursuing an MMA career adds another layer to his already captivating legacy. While he declined the opportunities that came his way, his influence on MMA through his advice to Daniel Cormier solidifies Angle’s standing as a respected figure within the combat sports community. Ultimately, we can only speculate on what might have been, but Angle’s accomplishments and contributions to professional wrestling remain undeniable.