UFC fighters who began their careers late
The landscape of mixed martial arts is littered with careers and questions of what could have been. None more so than those athletes who became full-time MMA fighters later than most. So with that in mind, we wanted to take a look at ten UFC fighters who started their career later than most.
Travis Browne – Heavyweight
Before UFC heavyweight Travis ‘Hapa’ Browne was a professional mixed martial artist. The six-foot seven-inch former basketball player, won Player of the Year in the 2000 Coastal North League while attending high school in San Diego.
But it would be at the ripe age of twenty-six that he would first be introduced to the sport of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. And from here on out he began cross-training in martial arts before making his professional debut in 2009.
Competing for a number of MMA promotions Browne fought nine times in one year, winning all of the bouts. Before making a move to the UFC in June 2010.
Very much in the top ten mix of the division, Travis would go five fights before losing to Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva. And from there he would go no more than three fights in a row before losing to the next opponent.
Once looked upon as a potential challenger for the heavyweight title. Browne never quite lived up to the expectations. Going on to lose four fights back to back from 2016 and 2017.
And along with his burgeoning romance with former women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey in the works. He would retire from active competition at thirty-five years of age.
Brock Lesnar – Heavyweight
Before smashing his way into the MMA world, big bad Brock Lesnar was a fulltime professional wrestler. And not just any old wrestler, but one of the biggest names in sports entertainment.
But in 2006 Brock made the decision to shift his focus to MMA, stating that he would fight under the K-1 banner. And winning his first professional bout in just over a minute, it wouldn’t take long before the UFC would snap up the wrestling megastar.
In February 2008 Lesnar would go on to lose in his debut against former champion Frank Mir. Before bouncing back and winning the UFC heavyweight championship in just his third fight against Randy Couture.
Brock would go on to defend the title two times before losing to Cain Velasquez. And it was around this time that personal health issues would keep the former champion out of active competition.
Fighting two more times in a five year period with one loss and one no contest. Fans often wonder what a healthy and younger Brock Lesnar could have achieved in the sport. But unfortunately, it’s a question which will never now be answered.
Yoel Romero – Middleweight
The Cuban born former World and Olympic freestyle wrestler turned mixed martial artist. Yoel Romero is one of those sports athletes who made an instant impact when he made the switch to MMA at the age of thirty-two.
Already with an outstanding career in amateur wrestling. Yoel would lose just one in his first thirteen fights. Almost always being simply more athletic and explosive than his mostly much younger opponents.
Romero became known as one of the most feared fighters in the sport. Managing to amass an 85% knockout ratio for a competitor who had spent the vast majority of his career grappling.
Threatening for the UFC interim and middleweight championship, Yoel would stumble on both occasions. Actually missing weight when getting the second of his three opportunities.
His fight against Israel Adesanya all but guaranteed that he will never again have a chance at another title shot. Yet another fighter who many believe got into the sport too late and could surely have taken a title in the right set of circumstances.
Shane Carwin – Heavyweight
Shane Carwin is the former UFC Interm heavyweight champion and yet another wrestler who came to the sport of MMA relatively late in his athletic life.
Following a successful career in wrestling, as well as American Football. At thirty years old, Shane made his pro debut with World Extreme Cagefighting. Winning the fight inside the first round, a feat he managed to carry through his first twelve bouts.
Carwin would not lose inside the cage until he faced a returning Brock Lesnar at UFC 116. Thereby handing over his interim heavyweight title to the former champion.
Going on to fight once more in 2011, Shane would lose to the rising star Junior Dos Santos. Never to fight again professionally and instead chose to return to his career in engineering. A colossus of a man, he was known for having some of the biggest hands in the sport. Which no doubt led to many of his vicious knockout victories.
Jimmy Manuwa – Light heavyweight
The US-born British mixed martial artist competed for much of his career in the UK, before being snapped up by the UFC in 2012. Jimi was yet another late starter, turning professional at twenty-eight years of age.
He had delayed his signing with the UFC until he felt confident in himself he could make a run at the 205 lb title. And winning his first three fights inside the first two rounds, the fighter from London got things off to a flying start.
However, his momentum was somewhat derailed in 2014 when he met top contender Alexander Gustafsson. Who knocked him out in the second round, giving him his first loss in fifteen fights.
He would fight eight more times for the UFC going 3 – 5, before finally retiring at thirty-nine years of age. Coming into the sport so late, Jimi Manuwa is yet another fighter who could have potentially gone all the way.