To become great at anything requires a lifetime of hard work and dedication; god given physical gifts and natural talent will only get you so far. MMA is a bit of an anomaly in the world of professional athletics because great fighters don’t necessarily have to be great athletes. Don’t get me wrong MMA fighters are athletes but they rely on skill and technique more so than they do on pure athleticism.

NFL players on the other hand are some of the most incredible athletes in the world. NFL rosters are loaded with world-class athletes and while there is a staggering level of technique involved in football the game is largely about feel and physical prowess.

Imagine though if some of the most jaw-dropping athletes in the NFL had chosen a different path when they were younger. Imagine if instead of football they dedicated their other worldly physical gifts to training for MMA competition. The results could have been astonishing.

#10 – Eric Berry

Berry is one of the best Strong Safeties in the NFL and at 6’0” tall and 211 pounds he could have been a hell of a middleweight in MMA. Berry’s speed and lower body explosion would have been a huge advantage in the development of an effective double leg takedown.

#9 – LaRon Landry

Landry is what he in football call a “thumper”; his explosive power at the point of impact is unnerving sometimes. That big hit mentality can lead to fundamental mistakes at time but his impact is felt all over the field when he unloads on a receiver. That reckless abandon and physical power would have made Landry a deadly striker.

#8 – Matt Kalil

Kalil is a mountain of a man at 6’7” and 308 pounds and he is one of the many NFL players who utilizes MMA training in his off-season regime. To play Tackle in the NFL players need to have great footwork, agility and a big powerful body. All of those things translate well into heavyweight competition.

#7 – Larry Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald is one of the greatest Wide Receivers in the history of the NFL and had he been a fighter instead he would have been one of the all-time greats in the realm as well. At 6’3” and 218 pounds Fitzgerald would have been a prototypical light-heavyweight or middleweight depending on weight cut and diet. What separates Fitzgerald from the pack is his hand eye coordination and hand eye coordination is key in the development of a counter-striking attack.

#6 – Patrick Peterson

Peterson has a lot of tools that would have translated into the world of MMA very nicely. To be an elite Corner in the NFL you have to be fast, fluid and aggressive; all essential components in the development of an elite striking game.

#5 – Earl Thomas III

Right now Thomas has to be in the discussion when it comes to who the best defensive player in the NFL is and had he chosen MMA he could be making the same case as a welterweight fighter. What separates Thomas from most is his football IQ; his ability to read offenses and QBs in real time is astounding. I imagine if he was a fighter he would bring that same level of mental acuity to the cage with him.

#4 – Clay Matthews III

Edge pass rushers in the NFL has to be fast enough to run a Running Back down from behind and strong enough to overpower the monsters that are NFL Tackles; you would be hard pressed to find a better embodiment of both than Matthews. One of Matthews’ biggest pass rush weapons is his rip move which is very similar to the uppercut in striking. If you think Junior Dos Santos has a vicious uppercut imagine what Matthews’ would be like if fighting was his focus.

#3 – Patrick Willis

Willis is what all NFL Inside Linebackers aspire to be; he is fast enough and agile enough to play in coverage, he is strong enough to take on blockers in the run game and he is smart enough to make all the defensive calls on the field. All those things would translate well into MMA but it’s his work ethic and ferocity that would have made him an elite fighter. Willis plays with a constant chip on his shoulder even though he is one of the best players to ever play the position. That type of mentality and work ethic translate well into anything.

#2 – Roddy White

This selection may be a surprise to many out there but make no mistake White could have been a great fighter. In high school White was a two-time South Carolina State wrestling champion. If there is one thing we all know it is that wrestlers transition into MMA better than just about anyone. Had White continued on the wrestling path his athletic ability would have led to him achieving great things…I think so.

#1 – J.J. Watt

In just three short years in the NFL Watt has already established himself as one of the premier defensive players and a force to be reckoned with. At 6’5” and 290 pounds Watt would have been a heavyweight wrecking machine. His power, his speed, his motor and his dedication would have led him to great things in MMA.

About The Author

RJ Gardner
Content Coordinator

RJ Gardner is a rabid sports fan and a long time MMA enthusiast. After watching UFC 1 at ripe old age of 11 RJ was hooked and his passion for the sport has continued to blossom over the years. RJ has been covering MMA since 2007 and has had work featured on Bleacher Report, SI.com, CBSSports.com and UFC.com. RJ is also a Petroleum Transportation Operations Manager during the day.