Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and Poker have one major thing in common; both have attracted hordes of fans around the world over the last decade. What may be less known is that a number of figures in MMA also dabble in poker in one form or another, with some being highly significant in both areas. Here are six of the top names in the MMA who are also involved in poker.
Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta (the Fertitta brothers)
The Fertitta brothers are the most significant behind the scenes figures in MMA, being the owners of the world’s largest MMA organisation, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). What gave the brothers their immense wealth, however, was their ownership of casinos in Las Vegas, and they have now turned their sights on the regulated online poker market in the US.
In April this year, the Fertitta brothers launched Ultimate Poker in the US state of Nevada, which is the only regulated online poker service in that state to date. The launch, and subsequent operation of Ultimate Poker, has been a ground-breaking event in determining the viability of a regulated online gaming market in the US.
Not only does that make the Fertitta brothers some of the most important figures in MMA, but it also puts them among the most significant in online poker history.
If the Fertitta brothers are the most important business figures in MMA, then Bruce Buffer is definitely the most important when it comes to ring announcing. Buffer has announced UFC events for well over a decade and has become a cult figure and fan favourite of MMA enthusiasts who are drawn to his highly enthusiastic style of announcing fights.
The Veteran Voice of the Octagon is also known in poker for being a shark on the felt and has played with some of the game’s top players over the years. He has landed in the money at four different WSOP events, including the 2010 WSOP Main Event.
Buffer has also done well at other major poker events, including the WPT, L.A Poker Classic and the Grand Slam of Poker, where he pocketed $75,000 by winning the 2010 Main Event.
Most male MMA fans love GSP because of his high-level skills in all aspects of the MMA game, while most women MMA fans love him because of his good looks and physique. The Canadian is rated by many enthusiasts as currently being the best pound-for-pound MMA fighter in the world, having been the UFC Welterweight champion since 2007 and successfully defendeding his title eight times.
His dominance has helped lead to some mainstream exposure and endorsements, one of which has been a sponsorship deal with 888. That deal led to GSP playing in both the 2012 and 2013 WSOP Main Events, failing to make it in the money in both tournaments.
It is unlikely that GSP can replicate his MMA success at the poker table, but still, it is always good to have high profile sports people and good role models involved in top level poker.
Heath Herring made his name in MMA as a solid heavyweight fighter and served as a litmus test for those who wanted to be at the top level of the division. The ‘Texas Crazy Horse’ ended his MMA career with a record of 28 wins, 14 losses and one no contest (youtube search ‘a little kiss before the fight’ to see how that happened) and fought in top level organisations such as Pride and the UFC.
Since leaving the spot in 2008, Herring appears to have a new passion and vocation in poker, making headlines in the MMA world when he outlined his desire to devote more time to the game. He came fourth in the 2011 Heartland Poker Tour Main Event, winning over $37,000, and reached the final tables of two events at last year’s APPT Cebu.
Herring has not made a major splash in the game of poker in 2013, having made the final table at just one event this year, according to the Hendon Mob database. Still though, at just 35, the sky’s the limit for him on the poker scene.
Chan is actually more of a ‘poker player in MMA,’ having been a solid player on the felt before fighting in the MMA. The Canadian has had a long and strong career in the game, mainly specialising in online poker, which includes taking out the Spring Championship of Online Poker (SCOOP) on two occasions.
He has done quite a lot more than sit behind a computer, however, having trained in MMA and martial arts like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Kickboxing, which led to Chan embarking on a two-fight amateur MMA career, winning both fights. Chan then decided to go pro, winning his first – and currently only – MMA fight in Hong Kong last year.
If he can keep up his current form, Chan could end up being solidly successful in the ring and on the poker table.