This Is What Happens When Sportsmen Go Rogue

30 October 2019
Culture, WWE, Tyson Fury, MMA, Rocky, Muhammad Ali, Hulk Hogan

As Tyson Fury prepares to make his wrestling debut in Saudi Arabia, we examine other examples of sportsmen operating outside the law. It’s rarely pretty

The barriers between boxing, wrestling and MMA continue to get blurred. And one man seems determined to have a finger, or fist, in every pie. Tomorrow night, Tyson Fury steps into the wrestling ring to take Braun Strowman on at Crown Jewel at King Fahad International Stadium in Riyadh.

The boxer, who has his eyes set on UFC as well, even floated the idea of bringing in Conor McGregor into World Wrestling Entertainment.

“I’d welcome him (McGregor) in to WWE and who knows, it could be a tag team dream team,” Fury said. “I’ve wanted to fight in UFC very soon, hopefully after wrestling who knows? Maybe by this year.”

In response, McGregor  tweeted “Up The Furys! Let’s go!”

McGregor of course has already made the jump from the UFC cage into a boxing ring, famously losing to Floyd Mayweather in the 10th round of  “The Money Fight” in August 2019.

No doubt the rise of mixed martial arts has encouraged fighters to hop between the different arenas liberally.  And one fight in particular is seen as a precursor to this phenomenon.

In June 1976, two-time world boxing champion Muhammad Ali fought Japanese professional wrestling champion Antonio Inoki in an exhibition bout held at the Nippon Budokan arena in Tokyo.

What could be more exciting? Reality, that’s what.

In truth the fight was massive let-down, with Inoki spending the majority on the mat kicking lumps out of Ali’s shins. A forgettable evening fight was declared a draw.

Still, at least the match would have a profound impact on the Japanese fighter. In 1990 he followed in Ali’s footsteps by taking a trip to Iraq to negotiate the release of Japanese hostages detained by Saddam Hussein.

In 2012, it was revealed that on a trip Karbala at the time, he had converted to Islam and changed his name to  Muhammad Hussain Inoki.

No doubt inspired by Ali’s experiment, Rocky Balboa would have a far more dramatic encounter with world wrestling champion Thunderlips, aka Hulk Hogan, in 1982.

What was meant to be jovial exhibition match turned nasty when Thunderlips took things a bit too seriously, going as far as trying to break Rocky’s back in front of his increasingly horrified wife and kid.

The whole thing descended into farce, or pandemonium as we are legally required to say, as the gloves came off, literally, for Rocky. The Italian Stallion eventually got his own back, strangling Thunderlips, punching the living daylights out of him and chucking him out of the ring.

Like Ali-Inoki, the match was called a draw and Rocky, his family and Thunderlips smiled to the cameras together. That’s the name of the game, apparently.

And don’t even dare tell us that was not real life.