With gifted physical abilities and sharp mind-body coordination, professional soccer players cannot be denied their place among those who inherit the ‘athlete’ title. Now, whether they can be placed on-par with the ‘athletes’ that compete in mixed martial arts is another question for another day. In fact, nowadays a lot of players will fall to the ground in agony over nothing, but this article is focusing purely on ability and not on shameful attempts to dupe referees. Just from watching the MMA and soccer though, there appears to be some overlap in the techniques exhibited within both sports. That said, here are five particular professional soccer players whose talents might ever so slightly ease their hypothetical transition from the pitch to the cage.
Samuel Eto’o, Chelsea
As a striker, Eto’o has risen to prominence and legendary stature in the top European leagues. Winning 19 competitions for club and country, plus being voted African Player of the Year four times, the Cameroonian talent as a footballer is almost second to none. In his 30s now, Eto’o has replaced some of his blistering pace with consistently sharp reflexes and a wealth of experience. His movement in small spaces around the penalty box and ability to converts shot attempts at the tightest of angles (http://bit.ly/1bRwxi3) is reminiscent of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu masters like Marcello Garcia and Demian Maia, who snap on equally tight submissions in the blink of an eye. If Eto’o took up BJJ tomorrow, I’m confident he would fare quite well.
Kyle Walker, Tottenham
With a relatively short stature for a professional soccer player at 5’10”, Walker is not often seen vying for aerial challenges against the likes of Peter Crouch and Romelu Lukaku. That’s because he’s charging up and down the flanks as a full-back, combining his rapid acceleration with a low sense of gravity that benefits his tenacity in the tackles. (http://bit.ly/1dZziNz) With a well-built frame, explosiveness and balance on the feet, the Englishman evokes the qualities of a wrestler, ironically in a country where the art of grappling is somewhat scarce.
Robin Van Persie, Manchester United
Another forward playing the Barclays Premier League, it would be hard not to mention last season’s Golden Boot Winner. RVP’s ability to take a touch and centre the ball whilst on the move in unparalleled, with a number of successful volleys serving as testament to the fact. (http://bit.ly/1hXNFHZ) With this ability in his feet and the power he generates from striking the ball, the Dutchman would not need to look further than his native homeland to pursue a martial art – Dutch Kickboxing. Possessing the qualities necessary to gauge an opponent’s distance, time their strikes and counter with some devastating leg kicks of his own, Van Persie could give some budding mixed martial artists a hard time.
Iker Casillas, Real Madrid
Here’s a goalkeeper from the Spanish La Liga whose smaller physical size has allowed other qualities to excel. Not exactly short at 6′ tall, Casillas is however dwarfed by some of his goalkeeping colleagues, with Athletico Madrid’s Thibaut Courtois towering at 6’5″. Where the Spaniard, capped 152 times for his country, shines however is in his reflexes. (http://bit.ly/1augo1r) Casillas’ ability to react to a shot within a fraction of a second and generate enough power to direct a football away from goal combines the same feats of agility and strength seen together in boxing. With excellent cardio conditioning from the rigorous training schedules of professional soccer, the goalkeeper could keep a spring in his step for as long as three rounds that might prove too evasive for some.
John Terry, Chelsea
You might love, you might hate him, you might have no idea who he is. The former captain of England has enjoyed a glittering career full of highs, lows, and a great deal of controversy. For a player whose off-field antics might divide opinion, there is a general consensus agreement about John Terry’s heart on the pitch. Here, the centre-back throws himself face-first into a challenge for a floating cross, only to receive a stiff boot to the face for his troubles (http://bit.ly/1c36pyR). Terry experienced a mild concussion but returned to the game before the end of full-time to watch Chelsea win the game. Throughout this, the defender demonstrated a certain bravery and reckless abandonment that we see from every competitor in the sport of MMA, with certain names like Diego Sanchez and Leonard Garcia springing to mind.
DISCLAIMER: These choices are personal opinion and a bit of banter.