This Friday night, former UFC veteran Stephan Bonnar will step out of the cage and into the pro wrestling ring as he makes his debut for PCW Ultra in Wilmington, California, against longtime wrestler Steve Madison at the promotion’s Opposites Attack event.
Having last fought in MMA in 2014, Bonnar has joined the ranks of fellow former UFC competitors Ronda Rousey, Shayna Baszler, and Matt Riddle in the pro wrestling ranks, and couldn’t be happier.
Speaking to MMAWeekly.com before his PCW Ultra debut, Bonnar discussed why he decided to make a run in pro wrestling, the transition from MMA, and if he ever considers going back to fighting in the future.
MMAWeekly.com: Firstly, Stephan, what made you want to get into pro wrestling?
Stephan Bonnar: It’s just a childhood dream. When I was a little kid in the 80’s, before the UFC, I wanted to grow up and be The Ultimate Warrior. Early in my MMA career I fought in a ring, and after I’d get a win, I get up and grab the ropes and started shaking them like The Ultimate Warrior.
MMAWeekly.com: What has the transition from MMA to pro wrestling been like?
Stephan Bonnar: It’s kind of like doing stunt work. You’re doing fight scenes. It’s like doing a play too. You only get one take. The training compared to MMA training is a lot slower, and everything’s deliberate. You don’t go in there grind like MMA training. You go in there and learn a move and polish it up a little.
It’s kind of like rolling with people nicely. I like doing that. It’s great; going in having to do that for a fight and having guys trying to tear you apart gets old after a while, so this is really enjoyable.
It’s been fun. It really has. I feel young again. Every day I feel like I learn something new and I’m getting better. In MMA after about the 10 year mark, and I kind of learned everything I was capable of doing, I was just trying to preserve what was left. This I feel young again.
MMAWeekly.com: What kind of wrestler can fans expect to see from you?
Stephan Bonnar: I’m not going to be one of the guys who does the really dangerous stuff. One of my favorite wrestlers, Low-Ki, does that move where he does a back flip off the top rope, turns around in mid-air into a front summersault into a splash. You’re never going to see anything like that from me. But that’s the beauty of pro wrestling: you get to do what you’re comfortable doing.
MMAWeekly.com: Being a well-known fighter in MMA, do you feel any pressure heading into the pro wrestling world?
Stephan Bonnar: Not really. It’s not like if I lose I’m getting half the paycheck or if I lose I’ll get cut; there’s so much more at stake. Here there’s a lot less pressure. You get paid the same whether you win or lose. It’s not as big of a deal.
MMAWeekly.com: With the success that Matt Riddle, Shayna Baszler and Ronda Rousey are having in pro wrestling, do you feel like we’ll see more MMA fighters make the transition like you have?
Stephan Bonnar: It just depends on if it’s their cup of tea. I always wanted to be a pro wrestler when I was a kid. I always looked forward to the promos in my UFC or even the Tito (Ortiz) fight in Bellator. I feel it was right up my ally. I think it’s not going to be like that for all fighters, but a handful of them, sure. There will be a couple here and there and will give it a try. Maybe they’ll not like it or maybe they will, like me, and see how far they can take it.
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MMAWeekly.com: Having been a few years since you last fought, do you ever feel like you’d come back for one last fight, or has that chapter of your athletic career closed?
Stephan Bonnar: I do feel that (I had my one last fight). It was the Tito fight. It was looking in the mirror and saying,” This is it. No more. Promise me you’re not going to do this to yourself again.”
I came back and did the fight, but you get in the 40’s and you’re not the same guy you were before. The (Randy) Couture’s and (Dan) Henderson’s are the needles in the haystack, but for the rest of us humans, you slow down. At that level, you lose a step, and boom, that costs you a fight because there was a punch you could have got out of the way of before, but not anymore.
MMAWeekly.com: Thanks for taking time out for us, Stephan. Was there anything you wanted to say in closing?
Stephan Bonnar: This Friday, June 9, I’ll be out in the San Pedro area for PCW Ultra. I’ll be in there with Steve Madison, a longtime veteran, and I’m going to go out there and try some new move I’ve been working. I’ll put on a show. In pro wrestling am I going to pin the guy or put him to sleep? You’ve got to see.