10 UFC Fighters Who Played Football Before MMA

There is beauty in martial arts, and no sport captures its essence quite like MMA. It should perhaps come as no surprise then that before embarking on their MMA careers, some fighters – contenders and champions alike – expressed an interest in another sport; The beautiful game. As the global MMA phenomenon hopes one day, football is deeply rooted in the sporting culture of almost every country in the world.

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And while some MMA fighters claim training in other sports such as wrestling, judo, boxing, etc., a few stand out. cfu The fighters began their athletic journey by first dipping their toes into the world of football.

ten Amanda Nunes

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Long before she crossed the women’s featherweight and bantamweight divisions, MMA’s consensus GWOAT was a more energetic kid than most. To help her burn off her excess energy, Nunes’ mother steered her towards sports. His chosen point of sale? Soccer.

With aspirations of becoming a professional footballer, Nunes devoted herself to sport, playing for local youth teams, Pojuca and Salvador. When the opportunity to try out for third division football club Esporte Clube Vitória came years later, however, Nunes was barred from doing so. Instead, her mother urged her to focus on her education. Luckily, one sport’s loss became another’s gain, and Nunes rose to the top of MMA.

9 Fabrice Werdum

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Former UFC heavyweight champion and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ace Fabricio Werdum is known in the MMA world by his nickname “Vai Cavalo”. In English, it translates to “Go Horse” and its origins lie in its past with football.

In his youth, Werdum often played football with his friends. “Vai Cavalo” is a term used when a player sweeps the ball off an opposing player’s feet, running upfield with it. Entering the world of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Werdum began to apply the term whenever he successfully subdued an opponent, paving the way for one of the most curious nicknames in MMA.


8 Jose Aldo

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The UFC’s greatest featherweight is known not only for holding the longest title reign in divisional history, but also for possessing the most thunderous low blows in the sport; a skill largely due to his past aspirations for a career in professional football.

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Like most Brazilian kids, Aldo aspired to pursue football as his life goal. His family supported his dreams, his father in particular. Unfortunately, as Aldo often found himself on the wrong side of street fights, his frustrations at the beatings he endured boiled over, leading him to take capoeira lessons; a decision that finally began his long journey as a martial artist, culminating in an all-time great MMA status.

7 Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza

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Among Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu’s greatest exports to MMA, Jacaré’s childhood was no different from most Brazilians; swallowed up by a love for the “beautiful game”. In his youth, Jacaré often played as a goalkeeper.

However, when he first crossed paths with his future BJJ master, Henrique Machado, Jacaré gave up the sport of soccer for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, eventually carving out a successful career in MMA that culminated in a reign. of the Strikeforce World Championship.

6 Lyoto Machida

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A lifelong martial artist, Lyoto Machida became familiar with his father’s brand of Shotokan karate at an early age, acquiring his black belt at the age of 13. Although before that, Machida’s attention had almost drifted away from a different passion.

Inspired by Argentine football legend Diego Maradona, 8-year-old Machida had set his sights on football. Not only did he once style his hair after Maradona’s curly mane, but Machida even credits his decision to go southpaw to Maradona’s left-footed dominance on the court. Alas, his dreams were not to be. Karate and eventually MMA would become his life’s passion.

5 Jessica Andrade

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Resident 125-pound UFC slugger and former 115-pound champion Jessica Andrade was once a budding soccer player. In fact, it was his passion before his discovery of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and MMA.

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In her youth, she played both football and its indoor counterpart, futsal. However, when offers to play for a São Paulo club were made, his mother forbade him from leaving his hometown of Umuarama. Left with no other choice, Andrade plied his trade as an athlete elsewhere, later discovering martial arts en route to rising through the ranks of MMA.

4 Wanderlei Silva

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One of MMA’s scariest fighters, Wanderlei Silva, was a man-butcher in his prime. As the owner of the longest PRIDE winning streak, most knockouts and most title defenses before making it to the UFC, Wanderlei Silva is a born fighter.

Unfortunately, that was something he hadn’t always known. In his youth, he often played football. If he hadn’t been frequently picked last for teams due to his lack of skill, he might never have pursued an MMA career.

3 Ciryl Gane

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One of the most athletic fighters in UFC heavyweight history, former UFC interim heavyweight champion Ciryl Gane has been into the sport a lot. Although his pre-MMA career is primarily known for his undefeated run in kickboxing, Gane played both basketball and soccer before focusing on combat sports.

His background as a football player saw him take part in a celebrity charity match involving Ivorian football legend Didier Drogba and Formula 1 hopeful Pierre Gasly.

2 Kenny Florian


Three-time UFC title challenger Kenny Florian is known as an exciting fighter who has never been shy about chasing after the finish against any foe.

What most don’t remember or even know about him is his past as a college football player during his college years at Boston College.

1 Conor McGregor

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No fighter has ever set the bar for MMA superstardom quite like Conor McGregor. A true crossover star, McGregor has become a household name not just in MMA, but in sports.

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Years before his MMA debut, however, McGregor was an amateur footballer, having played for both Yellowstone Celtic and Slieveamon United. The stars, however, have aligned to determine a different fate for McGregor. Where football led to nothing for McGregor, MMA led to athletic immortality.

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