It’s hard work playing for the NFL, but at least they don’t have to get punched in the face to make a living as many UFC fighters do. However, both sports demand extreme athletes, so there are actually quite a few NFL players who’ve crossed over into combat sports. Here are 5 men who’ve turned a new leaf and became very successful in the UFC.
A football player for much of his youth, Anders had a more stellar college football career than a professional one. He went to the University of Alabama and he was the linebacker for the Alabama Crimson Tide. In his last game of the 2009 season, Anders helped his team wash over the Texas Longhorns. After college, Anders signed a free-agent contract with the Cleveland Browns but he didn’t play any games for them.
Anders soon decided that his career would be in MMA, and after going 8-0, he joined the UFC and made waves there too. His career in the UFC hasn’t been as successful as his college football career, as he’s gone 4-4 so far in the UFC. However, the majority of his losses were to extremely good opponents, including title contenders like Lyoto Machida and Thiago Santos.
This football player turned MMA fighter turned podcast host turned stand-up comedian has had many career changes, to say the least. Like Anders, Schaub had a more successful college football career than he had in the NFL, as he was also signed as a free agent but he didn’t play any games. That didn’t stop Schaub from becoming a successful fighter though.
Although Schaub got brutally knocked out in his UFC debut, he rebounded and racked up four wins in a row. These wins included a spectacular knockout of the legendary fighter Mirko Cro Cop.
However, Schaub went on to lose 4 of his next 6 fights. At that point, he took the advice of his friend Joe Rogan and retired from the sport.
Like Schaub, Lesnar had a habit of trying out new professions. In 2006, he tried out for the Minnesota Vikings and ended up playing a few preseason games for them. The Vikings decided not to keep him on for their main squad, so Lesnar went ahead and tried his hand at another sport, MMA.
Although Lesnar had a short stint in the UFC, he left his mark as he won the heavyweight championship in his fourth professional fight. Lesnar successfully defended his belt two times before being knocked out twice, first by Cain Velasquez and then by Alistair Overeem.
Since then, Lesnar’s MMA career has been in limbo as he’s tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs and retired from the sport.
After his successful college football run at Purdue University, Mitrione signed with the New York Giants. He didn’t make a big impression and once he got injured, he was released and he signed with the Vikings. However, he was soon released from them too. And so, like the other men on this list, he turned to combat sports.
Despite being knocked out during The Ultimate Fighter TV show by Brandon Schaub, Mitrione was given another chance and he made the most of it. He started his UFC career strong with 5 straight wins but eventually, he slowed down and went 4-5 in his next 9 fights. After that, he decided to fight in other organizations and he continues to be successful in those.
Hardy is by far the most decorated and illustrious football player to ever fight in the UFC. It’s not surprising that after being essentially booted out of the NFL due to his domestic violence allegations, Hardy tried his hand at another sport.
The All-Pro defensive end doesn’t actually use his tackling ability much in the UFC. Instead, he chooses to knock people out. He debuted at Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series and knocked out fellow NFL alumni Austen Lane. He’d win 3 of his next 4 fights in the UFC, all by knockout. His one loss is actually by disqualification, as Hardy illegally kicked his opponent in the head.
Although many fans hate him, Hardy continues to be successful in the UFC, for now at least.