In a world that was once divided by regional circuits, we are lucky to see the top fighters and performers put their talents together and see the best in global entities such as UFC and WWE. However, as much as a stronghold that these companies have over North America, Asian corporations such as ONE Championship and NJPW continue to dominate their respective markets, being an actual competitor in their regions, as does KSW, M-1 Global and Fight Nights Global having footprints in Europe.
ONE Championship recently dipped into the American market, picking up UFC’s former lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez, plus also proposing a historical, promotional trade, requesting to send their current welterweight kingpin Ben Askren for former pound-for-pound number-one Demetrious ‘Mighty Mouse’ Johnson.
As Askren and ‘Mighty Mouse’ are both under their current deals for their respective promotions, we look at five notable fighters crossing over promotions while under contract.
Chuck Liddell (UFC) in Pride 2003 Middleweight Grand Prix
Though ‘The Iceman’ had fought as early as Pride 14, just five months after Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta launched Zuffa, Liddell was still establishing himself in his promotional home with just over half his fights for the UFC, with minor stints in regional events.
Twenty-seven months and five fights later, Liddell was back in Pride.
We eventually got to see Liddell vs. Wanderlei Silva at UFC 79 in 2007, however Dana White and Zuffa attempted to get this fight to happen when they allowed Liddell to enter the Pride 2003 Middleweight Grand Prix tournament as UFC’s representative.
It was expected that Liddell and Silva would meet in the finals at the end of the year show.
The first opponent for ‘The Iceman’ was Alistair Overeem, before the horsemeat, at Pride FC: Total Elimination 2003, who Liddell dispatched after getting caught early in the bout.
Liddell would lose in the next round against Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson and return to the UFC until his first retirement in 2010.
Frank Mir (UFC) scheduled to face Daniel Cormier at Strikeforce event
Zuffa, then the parent company of UFC, purchased Strikeforce in early 2011, and ultimately absorbed the fighters into the UFC’s respective divisions.
While the purchasing process was ongoing, Strikeforce, already in the middle of their Heavyweight Grand Prix, still needed their finals bout between Josh Barnett and Daniel Cormier to take place. Showtime, the broadcaster of Strikeforce, and UFC came to an agreement where the heavyweight division would be taken into the UFC banner, while the tournament winner and finalist having one more bout on a Strikeforce event. Cormier would ultimately defeat Barnett to win the tournament.
UFC now had a unique opportunity in their hands, as they had the chance to pick an opponent for Cormier on Strikeforce. With Strikeforce finishing up their remaining events before they are absorbed into the Zuffa, In September, UFC elected to choose one of their active fighters to take on Cormier; former heavyweight champion Frank Mir.
Two weeks later, Mir would withdraw from the fight due to a knee injury. After offers to Matt Mitrione and Pat Barry as replacements were not accepted, the event would be scrapped.
Ed Herman becomes the only active, contracted UFC fighter to fight in Strikeforce
In what may become a staple piece of mixed martial arts trivia knowledge at the kitchen table, Ed Herman is the only fighter to fight for Strikeforce as an active UFC competitor.
In the final event held by Strikeforce before merging with UFC, Luke Rockhold was scheduled to defend his middleweight title against Lorenz Larkin. Unfortunately Rockhold withdrew with a wrist injury and was replaced by the man he took the title from, Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza.
Just three weeks out from the event, Larkin withdrew from the event from an injury. After reports of numerous fighters turning down the bout with Jacare, active UFC middleweight Ed Herman stepped in.
Herman would be routed by Jacare, tapping out to a kimura in just over three minutes, but showed enormous heart by taking on one of the top middleweights in the world on short notice.
Brock Lesnar returns at UFC 200
His return at UFC 200 would mark Brock Lesnar’s second stint in the Octagon, however it would be ‘The Beast Incarnate’s’ first time competing in another organization while under WWE contract.
After demolishing Dean Ambrose at WrestleMania 32, Lesnar was kept off screen from WWE events for months, which may be considered normal in WWE’s part-time performance contracts.
Throughout the next few months, there were rumblings that Lesnar would be returning to the UFC, which for a time cost MMA reporter Ariel Helwani his credentials at UFC events. At UFC 199, the promotional video for UFC 200 would air. Nearing the end of the video, Lesnar appeared. It was also reported that the Minnesota-native would be fighting Mark Hunt.
The following day, WWE would issue this statement:
“Brock Lesnar remains under contract to WWE, however, he has been granted a one-off opportunity to compete at UFC 200. Following this milestone event on July 9, Brock will return to WWE for SummerSlam on Sunday, August 21, live on WWE Network.”
Lesnar would defeat Hunt by unanimous decision, but would also fail the post-fight drug test due to clomiphene. Lesnar was suspended by NSAC for one year and fined 10% of his fight purse.
WWE would advertise Lesnar’s return taking on Randy Orton at SummerSlam in August that year. The company would also address Lesnar’s failed drug test, as a WWE spokesman would tell CBS Sports, “WWE’s talent wellness program does not apply to part-time performers such as Brock Lesnar WWE is show business. The policy is not intended to keep the integrity of an athletic competition. It is intended to keep our full-time performers healthy.”
Conor McGregor fights Floyd Mayweather in boxing
Showtime and UFC meet once again.
As early as 2016, Conor McGregor would call out pound-for-pound great Floyd Mayweather to a boxing match.
Just under a year later, teams for Mayweather and McGregor would begin discussions to see if it was possible for both sets of superstars to negotiate a fight. In this timespan, McGregor was involved in four of the five highest-selling pay-per-views in UFC history, plus becoming the first UFC fighter to hold two titles in two weight classes simultaneously.
On June 14, both sides officially came to an agreement and “The Biggest Fight in Combat Sports History” was scheduled for August 26, 2017.
Instead of one promotion taking over the marketing process, Showtime, Mayweather Promotions and UFC came together to sell the fight, going on a promotional world tour.
The fight sold over 13,000 tickets for a gate that exceeded $55 million, plus selling 4.3 million pay-per-views domestically, becoming the second-highest selling PPV in history.
Mayweather would eventually win the fight with a tenth-round stoppage and go back into retirement. McGregor would return to MMA, losing in his return against current UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.