Pro Wrestling and UFC could meet at GC2018
What happens when a Scottish professional wrestler calls out an Australian UFC middleweight world champion for an amateur wrestling match at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games?
That is the very real scenario at GC2018 with Scotland’s ‘Prestigious One’ Joe Hendry declaring he wants to take on Robert Whittaker in April.
While the Commonwealth Games wrestling draw won’t be confirmed until April, the potential clash in the 97kg category would be the ultimate juxtaposition of diametrical pursuits.
Hendry is a flamboyant wrestler more accustomed to the confines of the squared circle, Whittaker is a tried and proven octagon warrior.
While it has all the makings of a carnival circus, Hendry was quick to point out the legitimacy of the potential contest.
“I am the British champion and Rob is the Australian champion,” Henrdry told GC2018.com.
“It is not just a pro wrestler calling him out for a laugh, there is legitimacy to both of us.
“I’ve only been in the sport for three years, but I’ve made a career of beating people I have no business beating. If you are not preparing to face the best person, what is the point?
“For pro wrestling fans, for MMA fans, for amateur wrestling fans, me versus Rob would be the most fun and interesting.
“I’ve made a career of doing things that people have told me are impossible.
“I want to try to raise the profile for amateur wrestling in Scotland, because I think it is a great sport and great for kids to get involved because it builds confidence and is a great foundation for the things life can throw at you.”
Robert Whittaker, I am calling you out.@UFC Middleweight Champ @robwhittakermma has qualified for The Commonwealth Games in the same sport, in the same weight class as me.— Joe Hendry (@joeshendry) March 4, 2018
British Champ vs Australian Champ
Pro Wrestling vs MMA#HendryvsWhittaker #GC2018 #TeamScot2018 @GC2018 pic.twitter.com/zGnX4RvSfL
Hendry was inspired to take the unorthodox route of transitioning from the world of professional wrestling to the amateur mat after attending the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games as a fan.
The opening ceremony was a watershed moment in Hendry’s career.
The magnitude of the occasion, the powerful sense of national pride and the burning desire to be a part of it all was driven deep into his psyche.
It planted the seed for an amazing journey that will turn full circle at GC2018.
“I was sitting in the grounds before the Glasgow Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony thinking how good would this be?” he said.
“I’m watching the athletes walking around the stadium, the fans and their family in the stands going crazy, you can see how proud they are and the joy on their faces and what it means to represent your country. It was something I really wanted to do.
“I want to make my family and my country proud. Selfishly for me, beating Rob would be amazing, but in truth, there is nothing that trumps representing your country.
“I don’t get very emotional, but I was moved that day.”
The 29-year-old has been competing in amateur wrestling for just over three years. In that short time he has made giant strides, becoming English and British champion.
It’s no sideshow.
The Scottish champion wants to show that professional wrestling is anything but fake. GC2018 will give him a platform to showcase the incredible toughness, athleticism and skill required of his sport.
“The beauty of amateur wrestling is that you find out who you are on that mat,” he said.
“You find out where your breaking point is, you find out where your toughness is.
“It is very different from professional wrestling, but at the same time, there are crossover skills, you need to be an elite athlete in both, that’s for sure.
“I started this relatively late in life as a sport. I want to show people that age is just a number, if you have a dream, go for it.
“I also want to show people that professional wrestlers are elite athletes, in fact they are insane athletes.
“If I can play a very small role in legitimising the sport of professional wrestling - I think it is a sport - that would be a huge honour for me. You have to fight to win every time. That’s why I called out Rob Whittaker.
“If this pro wrestler can do the unthinkable and beat Rob Whittaker, it would be very interesting.”
There is a long and distinguished list of amateur wrestlers who have gone on to make a name for themselves in professional wrestling.
Names like Brock Lesnar and Bret Hart are synonymous with both sports, but there are none more accomplished than 1996 Olympic gold medallist Kurt Angle, who went on to win six world titles in WWE.
Hendry faced the Olympic champion in a professional wrestling ring late in 2016 and his life was completely changed.
“I never really thought it would happen,” he said.
“I’m standing in the middle of the ring across from Kurt Angle, thinking how is this real, how is this happening? If this is possible, anything is possible.
“I changed that day, it isn’t an exaggeration.
“As soon as I locked up with him, I realised what they meant about Kurt Angle’s intensity. I realised that I’d only been operating at about 50 per cent.
“I was not the same after that day. It is an ever-evolving process, but it opened my eyes.”
Hendy clashed with the Olympic champion in professional wrestling, now he wants to take on the UFC champion in amateur wrestling as he continues to write his own trailblazing wrestling narrative.
After that he wants to come back to wrestle in Australia on the professional circuit.
But first there is the chance to make history and claim a medal for his country and possibly a chance to take on the UFC champion.
Tickets to the Wrestling 97kg category are limited. Snap up your tickets now.