Wrestling star turns to MMA

GERRY MODDEJONGE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:24 AM ET

He's battled a billionaire, stood in the ring in front of 80,000 fans and competed on the biggest stage in sports entertainment.

Bobby Lashley accomplished more in his three years with the WWE than most rising stars will earn in their career, and he's given it all up to pursue a future in mixed martial arts.

Although certain similarities can be drawn between the athleticism and attitude of both professions, there is no denying the reality of his new career path.

"WWE's more of a show. We all know it's a show. It's a great show and I enjoyed my time being in the WWE," said the six-foot-three, 265-pound combatant whose physique looks chiselled straight from stone. "This is more of a contest, so I'm actually putting everything on the line every match."

That includes his reputation among his faithful followers.

"For me, it's kind of been like the first couple fights - I can't lose because I have a lot of fans in the wrestling community who are looking at me and hoping for the best out of me," said Lashley. "I've got to be cautious and I've got to stay sound and I've got to make sure that I win so I can keep moving forward."

And win he has, sporting a 2-0 record heading into tomorrow night's Maximum Fighting Championship 21: Hard Knocks three-round heavyweight superfight against Mike Cook (7-3) at The Venue - River Cree Resort and Casino. Doors open at 6 p.m., while the TV card begins at 8 p.m.

His transition into the MMA world has gone well, so far.

"To me it was almost the same," said Lashley, whose background as a world-ranked and U.S. national champion amateur wrestler prepared him for the future. "When I went to the WWE, I had kind of the mentality of I'm still in the contest. So I trained for every one of my professional wrestling matches as if it was a real fight."

And now it is.

"This is where I want to be. This is where I feel comfortable. This is where I really want to rock and roll," said Lashley, who has a Mixed Fighting Alliance victory over Joshua Franklin and another over veteran Jason Guida.

Lashley has received some backlash for jumping ship.

"Wrestling fans, they don't have a problem with it. They're cheering. They're all behind (me). They're going on MySpace, they're going to my FightBobby site and they're encouraging me. The MMA community, they don't like it too much," he said.

Part of the problem was people assumed he would use his popularity to jump into the UFC, instead of training from the ground up like every other fighter.

"I think at first because people thought that I was just going to knock on Dana White's door right away. I want to stay back and work my way up," said Lashley. "MFC I think is a great organization. I've been here with these guys. Looking at this card, it's an incredible card. Hopefully I can have more than just one fight with them. Hopefully they'll open up a heavyweight division and I can headline it for them."


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