How would The Rock have fared in MMA?

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Do you smell what The Rock is cookin’?

It’s 1996 and a young stud by the name of Dwayne Douglas Johnson has embarked on a new career path: professional wrestling. Performing as Flex Kavana in the USWA, the future Rock was a hot prospect from the get go due to his impressive mix of size, agility and charisma (though it would take the WWF/E a little while to really cash in on that last one).

Fresh off the boat from a topsy turvy tenure in NFL Canada, Johnson had just started his path to superstardom.

But what if a certain other, equally (if not more so) physical, gig had caught his eye? What if, instead of raising his eyebrow, he’d taken an interest in splitting other people’s?

The UFC was a relatively young promotion in ’96 and in hot water thanks to the likes of US Senator John McCain chastising it as “human cockfighting.” For Johnson, WWF was the answer to his financial woes. The industry was heating up at the time thanks to the increasingly aggressive Monday Night Wars. Furthermore, his old man, the legendary Rocky Johnson, was right there to get him a foot in the door.

Fast forward to 2021 and the landscape of both professional wrestling and MMA couldn’t be more different. The UFC is a ratings and buy rates juggernaut thanks to a combo of Dana White’s business acumen and the superstar drawing power of fighters such as Brock Lesnar, Jon Jones, Conor McGregor, Georges St-Pierre and Ronda Rousey over the years. WWE, meanwhile, is not quite the hip, hot thing it was in the late ‘90s.

If the Jumanji star were to’ve been born in say 1992 instead of ’72, would he have transitioned into MMA instead of WWE?

The Rock’s love of MMA is well known. The big man famously held the BMF title during the ceremonial weigh-ins for Nate Diaz vs. Jorge Masvidal and presented the belt to ‘Gamebred’ after his win at UFC 244. Ever a good sport, Johnson even laughed off Diaz’s unfortunate post-fight rant at his expense.

He also recently congratulated middleweight champ Israel Adesanya on his impressive UFC 263 victory over Marvin Vettori. Adesanya, a fan of Johnson’s seminal Rock wrestling persona, even played the former WWE champ’s entrance theme after his win.

If Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson in his athletic prime had entered mixed martial arts, how would he have fared?

At 6’5 and 250-plus pounds, Johnson would’ve been a heavyweight with a titanic reach advantage over most of his foes. Thanks to his years spent playing football, Johnson was adept at high power exercises such as sprinting and explosive weight lifting movements like the clean and jerk. This would’ve granted him a good deal of power in the octagon to both hit hard and move fast. His cardio was also superlative due to the rigorous nature of playing American football.

His WrestleMania XXIX showdown with John Cena also revealed to us that the Hobbs and Shaw leading man has a superhumanly high pain threshold. The Rock tore his abdominal and adductor tendons off his pelvis during the bout, an injury that would leave most folks in a crumpled, agonized heap.

Instead, Johnson finished the bout with zero complaints, even taking the time to raise Cena’s hand in victory as the show closed out. If you can handle an injury that even Mick Foley winces at, you know you’re in the toughest of the tough.

When it comes to size, speed and strength, a prime Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson could’ve been something special in the cage. There’s just one problem, he has little in the way of any martial arts experience. A college football player-turned-sports entertainer, Johnson would have been a late starter in whichever martial arts he selected to create his fighting style.

Despite having all the athletic tools, the lack of muscle memory and combat expertise would’ve likely hindered The Rock’s bell-to-bell prowess. This issue would’ve left him relying heavily on his power over any real precision. This, in turn, would’ve likely led to a slightly reckless style of fighting a la MMA converts such as former World’s Strongest Man Mariusz Pudzianowski and fellow WWE legend Brock Lesnar.

Overall, Johnson would’ve likely been a big star in the UFC thanks to his immense charisma and showmanship. However, considering his inexperience and the fact that he’s been struggling with knee problems since his football days, it’s unlikely he would’ve reached the heights of MMA heavyweight GOAT candidates such as Stipe Miocic, Fedor Emelianenko and Cain Velasquez.

Funnily enough, The Rock’s career trajectory would’ve likely matched the BMF boys, Nate Diaz and Jorge Masvidal: big star fighters who’ve never quite ascended the mountain.

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Written by bourbiza

Bourbiza Mohamed. Writer and Political Discourse Analysis.


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