UFC 271 touching down in Houston, TX this week ensured that the spotlight would be on middleweights Israel Adesanya and Robert Whittaker. While that pair prepared to run it back, however, there was smattering of other MMA happenings that might have gone overlooked. Sunday MMA Quick Hits is back, with the best of what we didn’t get to in the past seven days.
Bobby Lashley Was Offered a UFC Deal, With a Catch
One of the lesser-talked about pro wrestling to MMA success stories has been Bobby Lashley. A former three-time NAIA National Wrestling Champion in his amateur days, a knee injury shelved his Olympic wrestling dreams — but he’d eventually move on to professional wrestling, signing with the WWE, and taking part in the infamous “Battle of the Billionaires” with Donald Trump and Vince McMahon at WrestleMania 23.
After his first WWE run came to an end, Lashley would make the jump to mixed martial arts, competing in Strikeforce, Titan FC, and later, Bellator MMA, where he went 5-0 before his fighting career wrapped up in 2016. At 15-2 overall, Lashley didn’t face huge names, but executed as needed in wins over James Thompson, Wes Sims, Bob Sapp, and Dana White’s Contender Series alum Josh Appelt. He looked the part of a real mixed martial artist, albeit with a heavy focus on his wrestling.
Now back in the WWE, there’s always been a question as to whether Lashley could have gone to the UFC, as fellow WWE Champion Brock Lesnar did, to great success. Turns out, Lashley was actually offered a deal, he told The MMA Hour recently.
“I know that Dan [Lambert, American Top Team founder] had talked with Dana [White, UFC President] at one time and Dana, he was fair with it, he said, ‘You know we can’t offer him a huge contract, but we will give him something that he can get his foot in the door and kind of prove himself,’” Lashley recalled. Lashley had been training with ATT part-time at that point; he later opened his own affiliate gym in Colorado.
“That’s all I knew and then when I talked with Dan about it, Dan’s a huge pro wrestling fan— Dan was like, ‘They want you to sign everything. There’s no more pro wrestling,'” Lashley continued. “‘Are you ready to shut the doors on pro wrestling?’ I was like, ‘Golly.’ You can’t offer me a contract and say, ‘Yeah we bring him in, but he needs to shut all of that down and get small money.’ Because the wrestling is something that I knew that I could really make some good money on long-term. So I couldn’t take a small contract to prove myself when I had pro wrestling where I’d already proven myself and that was always my money bag that I could always go back to. So I really couldn’t do it.”
Lashley eventually retired from MMA, knowing that training part time wouldn’t allow him to make a run for the title in Bellator, who at least allowed him to continue his pro wrestling career. Coincidentally, Lashley’s final MMA fight came in 2016, the same year as UFC 200 — where Lesnar was allowed to return for a one-off against Mark Hunt, while still under contract with the WWE.
Terrance McKinney Puts on his Writer’s Cap, Gets Published in Newsweek
Few things in MMA are more captivating than an underdog story, and Terrance McKinney is a prime example. It’s not that he’s an underdog in any given fight — it’s more that, as a recovering drug addict who flat-lined before paramedics saved his life, he’s an underdog in life. McKinney beating the odds and making it to the UFC has been one of the better feelgood stories for the promotion in recent years, and it just took an interesting turn: in the wake of the Joe Rogan controversies of the past few weeks, “T.Wrecks” put on his writer’s cap, put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard at least), and wrote an opinion piece for Newsweek.
We aren’t going to get bogged down in the Rogan stuff, because it’s not an MMA story, and players on both sides have been hurling disingenuous arguments to further tired political agendas. What’s exciting to see is someone like McKinney, who isn’t exactly the biggest star the UFC has to offer, using his platform to be heard. And acquitting himself rather well in the actual writing department.
Usman Goes Under the Knife, White Posts Graphic Surgery Shot
UFC welterweight champ Kamaru Usman underwent hand ligament surgery recently, and Dana White was good enough to share the gory details. Okay, this is far from the worst thing you’ve seen in fighting, but still, yikes.
Chris Leben Hospitalized Due to COVID-19 Complications
Chris “The Crippler” Leben, a fan favorite during his UFC run, officially retired from combat sports last year following a successful bare-knuckle boxing run. Known for fights with Anderson Silva, Sexyama, Wanderlei Silva, and others, the man has had plenty of wars, but unfortunately, it’s COVID he’s battling at the moment.
Leben posted an update on Instagram this past week, revealing that he had been hospitalized due to breathing difficulties after contracting COVID-19.
“The Crippler” definitely deserves some positive vibes, and hopefully a speedy recovery.
If At First You Don’t Succeed
Normally, freakshow fights are something of a guilty pleasure. Not this one. This is just plain dumb.
Remember Grigory Chistyakov? No? You’re all the better for it. The 500lb+ man is best known for fighting Darina Mazdyuk in November 2020, and being stopped via TKO. Mazdyuk is a flyweight. A female flyweight, who was later signed by Bellator.
Maybe they’ll sign Aleksandra Stepakova as well. Stepakova, a strawweight, is the next lady to fight in the cage against Chistyakov, under the Epic FC banner in Russia. This time, the massive super-heavyweight won a unanimous decision.
— Matysek (@Matysek88) February 9, 2022
On the same card, a father-son team competed against 28-year old Yulia Mishko. What the hell is going on in Russia?
No outro “duelo”, Peso pesado feminino Yulia Mishko enfrentou dois homens ao mesmo tempo pic.twitter.com/MrEuXz5ebt
— Dama de Ferro MMA (@damadeferromma) February 10, 2022