Former MMA fighter and professional wrestler Dan “The Beast” Severn sparked what seemed like a completely futile debate a few months back. In an interview, the former champion claimed professional wrestling was actually more difficult than MMA fighting. At first glance, one would assume Severn was obviously mistaken. Obviously there is no possible way a sport whose outcomes are arranged could be tougher than one that involves almost bare-knuckle brawling.
On the surface, the story resembles a horribly concocted Bleacher Report article, meant to simply attract attention and create conversation with a controversial opinion. However, when digging deeper, there is a case to be made for professional wrestling in this argument. Severn is not the only former MMA-fighter-turned-professional-wrestler who has argued for professional wrestling’s side.
After signing a contract with TNA professional wrestling, former MMA fighter Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal commented on his TNA training sessions during an interview with MMAjunkie.com. Throughout the interview, Lawal consistently claimed that training for pro wrestling is tougher than that of MMA. He claims he was unable to complete a few of the training moves, and was afraid to attempt others. When asked about his limitations, Lawal responded by stating, “At this time, I’m not seasoned enough. I’m a coward.”
The Case for MMA Fighters
This is a fairly simple argument to make. How could anyone possibly think pro wrestling is tougher than MMA? With real strikes, submissions, and blood, there is no tougher sport in the world than MMA. Think of it this way: you could either fight Brock Lesnar in a pro wrestling match where he is landing fake punches, or in an MMA contest where he is doing everything in his power to incapacitate you.
In the end, one set of combatants is trained to fight, while the other is trained to act. If MMA fighters like Anderson Silva or Georges St. Pierre were forced to fight John Cena in a dark alley, which would win the fight? The answer is likely Silva or St. Pierre. However, that simply means MMA combatants are better fighters, but does it mean they are tougher?
The Case for Professional Wrestlers
It is hard to imagine making this argument without a horde of detractors immediately laughing at the mere thought of suggesting pro wresters are tougher than MMA fighters. However, with a much more demanding schedule, tougher training sessions, and having to compete through injury, a case can certainly be made.
Whereas an MMA fighter only has to enter the ring once every few months, pro wrestlers are constantly wrestling throughout the week. After a while, nagging injuries start to accumulate and wear down the body. There are numerous documented instances of wrestlers finishing matches with excruciatingly painful injuries. Despite the fact that the outcomes are pre-determined, the action is completely real and often results in injury.
Ultimately, despite the fact that MMA action is “real” and pro wrestling is “fake,” pro wrestlers are indeed tougher than MMA fighters. With a grueling schedule that almost always results in some sort of injury, professional wrestlers are never really given adequate time to recover from small, nagging injuries like MMA fighters are. Also, pro wrestlers have to be much more multi-faceted than an MMA fighter. While an MMA fighter only needs to know how to fight, a pro wrestler has to sell strikes as legitimate, develop microphone skills, and also withstand the constant bodily abuse sustained while competing. King Mo claimed training for pro wrestling is 3 times harder than MMA training, and I tend to believe him. The next time an MMA match is on and a competitor taps out of an arm bar to avoid having the bone broken, think about the time John Cena tore his pectoral muscle from the bone and finished the match, or the time Steve Austin broke his neck but still had the strength to finish the contest, and then think about who is tougher.