Through MMA’s relatively short journey in the sports world, there have undoubtedly been talents that never made it to the UFC. They could have been stars, but instead either didn’t pursue the dream or didn’t get their shot.

Had some of these fighters been showcased by a big-time organization such as the UFC, perhaps they may have become MMA messiahs. Instead, we are left wondering, “what if?”

Here is a closer look at three of those guys who could have been star fighters if they had come to the UFC. Two of them never realized the dream of MMA, while the other leaves us scratching our head on why he never made it to the Octagon.

Kurt Angle (0-0)

Okay, so he may not have made a bad career choice financially, but can you imagine how big a star Kurt Angle could have been if he turned to a life of mixed martial arts?

The man is an Olympic gold medalist in wrestling. He is also incredibly strong and explosive, which could have transitioned well in MMA.

Angle claims he would and still could beat Chuck Liddell in a fight, but how great would it have been if he had trained in mixed martial arts and met the “Iceman” in the main event of an early UFC show?

Brock Lesnar’s jump from the WWE to UFC was incredibly successful for a guy who was best known for his “fake wrestling” skills. Angle is a better amateur wrestler than Lesnar, and yet Lesnar was a championn in the UFC.

Could Angle have been the UFC champion? We will never know now, unfortunately.

Cael Sanderson (0-0)

A folk legend among fans of the MMA world, Cael Sanderson is another case of “what if?” What if Sanderson became a mixed martial artist after winning a gold medal in wrestling at the Olympics?

Sanderson is considered one of the greatest American wrestlers in the history of the United States. His wrestling base alone would have made him a top contender at middleweight. Current UFC middleweight kingpin Anderson Silva’s biggest weakness is his counter wrestling, and Sanderson is a better wrestler than Chael Sonnen. Could he have knocked off the undefeated (in the UFC) champion with some MMA training and commitment?

Sanderson is 33 years old right now and enjoying a career as the Penn State head wrestling coach, so it’s highly unlikely that he will ever make the move to the UFC.

Ryan Gracie (5-2)

The late Ryan Gracie was known as the bad boy of the Gracie clan. His personality alone could have made him a star and garnered a loyal cult following.

Ryan did fight his entire career in Pride—you can get that type of honor when you boast the Gracie last name. He was a masterful grappler who fought Kazushi Sakuraba to a decision, even though more famous relatives like Renzo, Royce and Royler were finished by “The Gracie Hunter.”

Unfortunately for Ryan, he would never make it to the UFC or become the star he could and should have been. He died in 2007 while in jail for stealing and crashing a car. It was a sad ending to what could have been a storied career.

Photo: Ryan Gracie (Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog)

About The Author

Riley Kontek
Staff Writer

Riley Kontek is a Chicago-land native that has been an addict of mixed martial arts since the first Chuck Liddell-Tito Ortiz encounter. He has been writing on MMA for the last year and is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report MMA. In addition to that, he used to host a weekly radio show on MMA. Though he has no formal training in mixed martial arts, Riley is a master in the art of hockey fighting.