What if Kurt Angle followed in the same footsteps as Brock Lesnar when he departed from WWE and headed to the UFC in 2006?
The former Olympic Gold Medalist wrestler revealed on his podcast, The Kurt Angle Show, that he was in talks with Dana White to join the UFC when he left the WWE due to many issues he had with the company and Vince McMahon. Angle would sign a contract with TNA Wrestling where he said during his conversations with White about joining the UFC, the former WWE Champion asked if he could continue wrestling for TNA while doing MMA.
“When I left WWE, I started training a little bit at the Pittsburgh Fight Club and I did it for about three or four months,” Angle said. “Even when I signed with TNA, I was still doing the training, and I wanted to become more knowledgeable and keep my options open to have a big MMA fight down the road. I started training Jiu Jitsu, stand up fighting, boxing, learning all the trades so I could be well versed and well prepared if I ever did have a fight. It never occurred and I got lost into wrestling again. I love pro wrestling and there was nothing that was going to keep me from it.
“When the UFC offered me a deal when I left the WWE, it was a really good deal, but I told Dana that I had to wrestle too and he said, ‘There’s no way you can wrestle and fight.’ He’s right, that was a stupid idea that I had in my head to think that I could do both. I wouldn’t have survived very long doing both, but that’s what I wanted and Dana would not allow me to, so I had to turn down his offer.”
It has become a standard for all WWE talent that we’ve seen over the past few years that once they’re released from their contract, a 90-day non-compete clause follows it. Being granted his release during a meeting with Vince McMahon where he told his boss he believed he’d die if he stayed in WWE, Angle was also allowed to sign with another company the day he was let go.
“Ironically, I was free to go that day I signed,” Angle said. “There were no strings attached, Vince McMahon released me that day and I was free to do whatever I want. I was very grateful for that, not that I was planning on going anywhere else at that time when I signed the release, I just wanted to get out. I wanted to get away and when I did, all these promotions started calling me and contacting me and were interested in signing me. I didn’t want to sign with anyone but WWE. In other words, I was going to take a break and come back and I wanted to show my loyalty to WWE, but when I started thinking about different promotions contacting me, the interest they had and the money they were going to give me, I was like, I wasn’t even happy in WWE. Why would I want to go back? The one thing I do regret about WWE is when I got injured, I didn’t take enough time to rest. I always rushed back because I wanted to get back as quick as possible and that’s why I didn’t enjoy my career there. It was my fault, but I do remember I was not happy there.”
When asked about receiving a contract offer from Dana White to come to the UFC, Angle was also asked whether or not Dana had brought up an opponent for the Olympic Gold Medalist in his debut. The WWE Hall of Famer said White chose his first opponent in the UFC to be former Tough Enough winner Daniel Puder, who Angle had a scuffle with in WWE on SmackDown.
“He wasn’t very specific on saying we’re going to protect you, but the opponent that he gave me at the beginning was a good opponent,” Angle said. “Very intriguing from a public interest standpoint, especially from a pro wrestling fan standpoint. Very intriguing because he didn’t have a lot of experience in MMA, he only fought a couple times, but I had a little episode with him in the WWE. That was Daniel Puder, and when Dana said that to me I said, ‘Are you serious? Daniel Puder, that’s all?’ Not that I thought Daniel Puder was easy because he actually had my arm trapped and he would have broken my arm when we did our little episode on SmackDown. I just knew that I could beat Daniel Puder.
“Especially if I rested and let my neck heal. When I worked with Daniel Puder in WWE, I just got back from my neck surgery and my arms were so weak, I couldn’t do five pushups, really vulnerable. Not sure why the WWE had me get in the ring with Daniel Puder knowing my condition, but they did. I ended up getting caught in a situation that could’ve turned ugly, but fortunately, Daniel pinned himself and he was on his back just like a Jiu Jitsu guy would be. I was excited about the first fight, Daniel Puder, a formidable opponent for me at that particular time, not too overbearing. It was a good starting fight for me. I knew Dana was caring about my career in MMA because he was giving me an opponent that I could possibly beat.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit The Kurt Angle Show Podcast with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.