Carl Dilks (pictured) is just one of many boxers that switched to MMA
Because of the similarities between the two combat sports and the developed competition built up by fans, MMA news and rumors pages are always hungry for stories about boxers switching over to mixed martial arts. However, there are a limited number of pugilists who then decide to compete in MMA – and vice versa.
Sure, you get the odd crossover battle such as the mega-fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor, as well as Randy Couture vs James Toney, yet these examples both show why competitors usually stay in a single combat discipline. The switch is a formidable one.
With that said, here are various examples of UK competitors that have a boxing background, and then tried entering MMA:
Ian “The Machine” Freeman is one of the most popular British figures in MMA. Yet before he dipped his toes in the realm of mixed martial arts, Freeman spent around ten years training in boxing under the tutelage of his father. However, after an unfortunate tussle with an intoxicated man during his job as a doorman, Freeman realised he didn’t have to use his fists to end fights. This set into motion the beginning of his MMA career which first started in 1999, and one year later he became the first British individual to compete in the UFC. The highlight of his career was ending the unbeaten record of future heavyweight legend Frank Mir, and he was also a two-weight Cage Rage champion during a notable 20-7-1 career.
Freeman is now training his daughter, Kennedy, who also had a boxing background before entering MMA. She is currently 3-0 as a professional.
Despite being a frequent figure in the British heavyweight boxing rankings for a number of years, Mark Potter is best remembered for being at the end of an embarrassing – and miraculous – knockout loss to Danny Williams. Williams, who had dislocated his right shoulder during their bout, managed to pull out a leading left uppercut to heavily drop Potter and effectively finish the contest. While his boxing career never fully recovered from this and he left the professional scene in 2003, he amassed a reported 21-0 (21KOs) record on the unlicensed circuit – including a first-round win over cult figure Butterbean. With an itch to continue fighting, Potter went 5-2 in MMA competing in national organizations CFC and UCMMA, his last fight coming in 2012.
A fringe contender on the domestic scene, Carl Dilks amassed a respectable record before bowing out of professional boxing in 2015. His most notable contest was when he went the distance with friend Wayne Adeniyi in an epic British battle at the Liverpool Olympia in December 2012 with the Central Area cruiserweight title on the line. He lost by a single point but was part of a fight thta will be forever remembered in local boxing history.
After swapping punches with the likes of James DeGale and Rocky Fielding (pictured in article image), the English and Commonwealth challenger decided to continue his passion for combat sports by diving into MMA. Sadly his career has stumbled out of the gates, with a current 1-3 record on the amateur circuit.
This is how 'Dilksy' describes his MMA stint in typical British self-deprecating humor: “I keep getting done in!”
Danny Roberts began as a professional boxer at the age of 20. Although he compiled a solid 3-1 record, his coach gave him some frank advice: “He told me I could be pretty good in boxing or I could be great in MMA,” Roberts remembered for MMAjunkie. This put the wheels into motion for his entry into the MMA world in 2010. Since 2015, Roberts has been under the UFC banner as a welterweight, going 5-2 with the promotion – including winning two “Fight of the Night” awards – to add to his impressive overall MMA record of 16-3.
Liverpudlian Tony Moran has the unique distinction of beginning his combat career in boxing, then switching to MMA, before returning to boxing. Yet despite being a gutsy competitor, Moran – a cruiserweight in boxing and middleweight in MMA – never had the most success in either discipline. He built an inflated 16-6 record during his two spells in boxing, his only notable win coming against former heavyweight hope Matthew Ellis. It was a similar story in MMA, a positive 9-6 record on paper but without any notable names beside the win column.
However, his 'Dare to Dream' moniker was all about his hardships in life and battles with depression and homelessness. A devoted father, he worked 100-hour weeks to provide for his family and fund his combat careers, and found himself at the mercy of homeless shelters during his tumultuous life.
Jack Marshman is one of the most decorated Welsh competitors in MMA history, but he also has a background in boxing. During his spell as a Lance Corporal with the army, Marshman would become an army boxing champion. This, however, didn’t inspire him to become a professional boxer, instead focusing on MMA. A professional since 2010, Marshman scooped up the Cage Warriors Champion and BAMMA Lonsdale Champion titles at middleweight, achievements which saw him earn a call to the UFC. His debut with the UFC in 2016 earned him a “Performance of the Night” award, but he has struggled to build on this by losing three of his following four fights.