It takes a lot of time and dedication to be a successful athlete. Very few people make it at the top because it requires a lot of things to go right. As well as talent, you need to have a tireless work ethic and be in the right place at the right time. With that in mind, trying a second sport (especially professionally_ is even tougher.
So today, we’re going to take a look at 25 successful athletes who tried and failed at other sports. There are some weird stories on this list, but they’re worth remembering nonetheless. The moral of each story, however, is that if you’re good at your own sport, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be good at another one.
And don’t try to be a fighter. Check out the list below.
25. James Toney
A three-weight champion in boxing, Toney was a superb fighter. Overall, he competed in 15 world title fights across four weight classes. Toney was famous for utilizing his shoulder roll and was a superb counterpuncher. Therefore it was no wonder he felt he could take on the best fighters on the planet.
Toney signed with the UFC. He fought just once in MMA against Randy Couture at UFC 118. Couture took Toney down right away and was able to get an arm-triangle submission. The boxer never had a chance as soon as the fight hit the mat. The fight serves as a warning to all boxers who think they’d beat an MMA fighter at their own game.
An All-American with the USC Trojans, Morton had a solid NFL career, spending most of his time with the Detroit Lions. However, he also played for the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs. After retiring he decided to make a foray into MMA. This turned out to be a bad idea.
At least it didn’t last long. He fought Bernard Ackah at K-1 Dynamite in LA. Ackah was better than the former receiver. He knocked Morton out just 38 seconds into the first round. To rub salt into his wounds, he tested positive for testosterone after the fight and lost his paycheck.
Gatlin was one of Usain Bolt’s main rivals for a long time, but PED use has tainted his career. After returning from his first ban for amphetamines, it looked good for Gatlin. But then USADA detected testosterone in his system and suspended him for four years (reduced from eight).
During his ban, he tried to play in the NFL. After working out with the Houston Texans, he went to the Tampa Bay Buccaneer’s 2007 rookie camp. He tried out for the team as a wide receiver. Ultimately the Bucs rejected him, viewing him as a “track guy” rather than a receiver.
Okay, technically it’s not a sport, but it’s Kimbo Slice and the man is a legend. He made a name for himself on the street fighting scene, garnering a massive following. It should come as no surprise that legitimate combat sports organizations came hunting for his potential drawing ability.
However, his street fighting skills didn’t really translate to the MMA cage. His loss to Seth Petruzelli at Elite XC: Heat literally ended the company. In the end, Slice retired with an overall record of 5-2. That’s not bad, but considering the hype he had around him, it’s not great either.
Johnson emerged as one of the NFL’s most productive wide receivers of the 2000s and owns nearly every Bengals receiving record. However, his arrest for domestic violence definitely didn’t make him popular in the league. He ended up finishing out his career in Canada and Mexico.
He also had a go at two other professional sports. After MLS team Sporting Kansas rejected him, he played fourth-tier soccer with Boca Raton FC. Johnson was also briefly a professional bull rider. He only lasted 1.25 seconds on the back of a 1500-pound bull named Deja Blue at a PBR event.
Yes, it’s a little bit harsh to put Hardy on this list. But it’s fair to say that his UFC dream hasn’t turned out amazing for him yet. He had a very promising football career with Carolina Panthers and then with the Cowboys. But after a high-profile domestic violence case and possession of cocaine, he decided to switch paths.
Now fighting for the UFC, Hardy is by no means a fan favorite. It’s hard to shake being an alleged woman-beater. Add in the fact that he got disqualified in his debut and you can see why he’s easy to hate. He also lost his most recent fight against elite opponent Alexander Volkov. In short, it’s been a rough start.
A three-time Stanley Cup winner, Chelios was also one of the longest-tenured players in NHL history. He shares a joint record of 26 consecutive seasons with Gordie Howe. But retirement didn’t come naturally to this Hall of Famer. After retiring he wanted to go after his Olympic dream.
Of Greek heritage, Chelios decided to go full ‘Cool Running’s and put together a Greek bobsled team. However, his team wasn’t good enough to make it to the Games in Turin, Italy. Instead, he played at the Winter Olympics as captain of the US men’s hockey team.
Italy’s Maldini is one of the best defenders in history. The former AC Milan captain had a languid elegance in his approach to the sport. The five-time Champion’s League winner relied more on his technical ability than aggression, unlike other players of his generation.
After retirement at the age of 41, Maldini turned his attention to tennis. He qualified for the Aspria Tennis Cup in Milan, a professional tournament on the ATP Challenge Tour. Maldini and his doubles partner Stefano Landiano crashed out in the first round. To sum it up, that was the end of his tennis career.
A Dallas Cowboys legend, Romo spent all 14 seasons of his NFL career in Texas. He has the highest passer rating of any quarterback not to reach the Super Bowl. However, his playoff record has somewhat tainted his career. Despite this, he was very popular during his playing days.
An avid amateur golfer, Romo regularly played during the offseason. He tried to qualify for the 2005 US Open but narrowly missed the cut. He did play in the 2018 Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship on the PGA Tour. However, he finished dead last and missed the cut.
We’re being a little harsh by including Bol on this list. One of the best shot blockers in the history of the league, Bol is the NBA’s tallest-ever player. In fact, he was so good at blocking that he is the only NBA player to retire with more blocked shots than points scored.
But did you know he also played as a professional hockey player? That’s right, he had a one-game contract with the Indianapolis Ice of the CHL. However, his arthritic feet swelled up in the skates, cutting his career shut. It was all for charity though, as Bol had a massive heart.
On his Olympic début at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Chambers was the best European performer in fourth place. He broke the 10-second barrier twice at the 2001 World Championships. In short, he’s one of the fastest European sprinters ever. But too bad he’s also a drug cheat.
After disgracing himself, Chambers decided to try out for NFL Europa. The Hamburg Sea Devils signed him up but the NFL shut the league down. Then he made the move into rugby league with the Castleford Tigers. However, he never played a game for the first team.
Most people think of cricket being a posh English person’s game. Flintoff was one of his country’s most important players and became a celebrity in England. In short, nobody expected him to announce a new career as a professional boxer. Nor should he have ever pursued that path.
Flintoff only fought once in boxing but it served as a warning for him. He defeated chubby 2-0 heavyweight Richard Dawson in front of a sold-out Manchester Arena. But he definitely wasn’t a natural. Finally, he decided to hang up the gloves and not put himself through that ordeal again.
One of the most talented players to ever play in the NFL, Rice has a phenomenal football record. He lit up the league with the 49ers. However, when he decided to transition to golf, things just didn’t go as well.
In 2010, he competed in the Fresh Express Classic at TPC Stonebrae. Rice had played golf for 20 years but that didn’t make him elite. He missed the cut and finished one shot ahead of last place. The football star was 17-over and 151st among the 152 players who completed two rounds.
McGrady is a seven-time NBA All-Star, seven-time All-NBA selection, two-time NBA scoring champion, and one-time winner of the NBA Most Improved Player Award. In short, he was a very good basketball player. But it wasn’t his only sporting love. He also dreamed of being a professional baseballer.
However, just because you’re an elite athlete doesn’t mean you’re good at every sport. He joined the Sugarland Skeeters, but at the end of the day, he wasn’t very good. Still, though, he did realize his dream, which is more than a lot of other people can say.
One of Britain’s most successful soccer players, Ferdinand had a stellar career. After impressing with Leeds, he moved to Manchester United for a record fee. He helped the Red Devils to six Premier League titles and the Champion’s League. In short, it was definitely a successful move.
But after retiring from soccer he set his eyes on another sport. He decided that at the age of 39, the time was right to become a professional boxer. However, his career ended before it even began. The British Boxing Board of Control rejected his bid for a license. That was the end of that.
One of WWE’s most popular stars, Phil Brooks stunned the combat sports world when he decided to transition to real fighting. Better known as CM Punk, he already had millions in the banks as a successful pro wrestler. So this move into MMA didn’t make much sense.
Nor did it turn out well for him. Punk only fought twice under the UFC banner but both ended with fans cringing on his behalf. First of all, he lost to Mickey Gall by first-round submission. Then he followed it up with a miserable decision loss to Mike Jackson in one of the worst performances ever.
Yarborough made a name for himself on the sumo wrestling circuit. He has the Guinness World Record for the world’s heaviest athlete at a ludicrous 800 lbs. This behemoth gained fame as a world champion in amateur sumo. But then he decided to move into professional fighting.
The New Jersey native made his MMA debut at UFC 3 when he lost to Keith Hackney. He’d only fight twice more and ended his career with a record of 1-2. It turns out that being a giant doesn’t help you against people who can actually move around.
Canseco is one of baseball’s most controversial figures. After leaving MLB, he published a tell-all book revealing his own and others’ drug use. However, he decided to transition to MMA. Combat sports require dedication and a lot of skill. The Cuban-American ‘nunchaku expert’ decided he had that.
The self-proclaimed karate and taekwondo blackbelt fought South Korea’s Choi Hong Man at DREAM 9 in Yokohama. In short, it didn’t go well for him against the 7’2″ Choi. He lost by TKO in the first round. To sum up, that was the end of his fighting career.
Jones was a massive star in her prime. A five-time Olympic gold medalist at the Sydney Games, she looked on track to be as famous as the likes of Michael Phelps today. However, it all came crashing down after she failed a drug test. Then a counterfeiting scandal sent her to jail.
After this, her track career was over. But she was desperate to make the most of her athletic ability while she could. So she turned to basketball and joined WNBA squad Tulsa Shock. However, her numbers were below average. When Tulsa released her, it wasn’t a shock.
Harding’s career is one of the most dramatic in US sports history. A national champion in figure skating, she even made it to the Winter Olympics. But her career spiraled out of control because of the Nancy Kerrigan scandal. It all ended with a whimper.
Harding put on almost 20 pounds and became a professional boxer. She fought six times with a record of 3-3. However, after losing her last two fights she decided to hang up the gloves for good. It was a way to make a quick buck but her asthma ended her fighting career early.
One of the greatest Olympians of all-time, Bolt is an eight-time gold medalist. He’s the greatest sprinter ever and has never been cited for PED use like most of his compatriots. An 11-time world champion, his celebration has also become iconic. But running isn’t his only passion.
After his retirement, the Central Coast Mariners took the soccer-mad Bolt on trial. He scored two goals in a preseason game for the A-League side. However, after the Australian team offered him a contract he backed down. His fellow players were dismissive of his abilities saying it was all about marketing.
Former IBF junior welterweight and WBO welterweight champion Malignaggi was never the best athlete. But he was a hard worker with a great chin. This helped ‘The Magic Man’ to the success he might not otherwise have enjoyed. However, he made an ill-fated move into the bare knuckle game.
Malignaggi fought Artem Lobov in a bare knuckle boxing match that saw him break his hand. The New Yorker fought the Russian after developing a grudge with Lobov’s teammate Conor McGregor. In the end, the fight underwhelmed as Malignaggi found out that taking the gloves off changes the game completely.
Lesnar is a freak of a human being. The WWE legend had crossover success with the UFC, becoming the MMA promotion’s heavyweight champion. With his massive frame and suffocating ability on the mat, he was a danger to everybody in front of him. But the former champ had less success on the playing field.
His NFL career only lasted for one preseason with the Minnesota Vikings. In short, he was more famous for getting into petty fights than for anything else. While his physicality made him a handful in the wrestling and MMA world, he was just one of many in football.
Arguably the most important athlete of the last 30 years, Jordan became a megastar with the Chicago Bulls. His achievements in the NBA are seemingly endless. Even off the court, he’s been a major success with his Air Jordan shoes after his playing days. But he did fall short in one aspect of his life.
Jordan decided he had enough of basketball and played for the Birmingham Barons in minor league laseball. The six-time NBA Finals MVP’s baseball stat line in one year was unimpressive: .202 AVG with 3 HR, 51 RBI, and 30 SB. In the end, he came back to the NBA.
The Irishman is one of the most famous combat sports athletes on the planet. First of all, he won the UFC featherweight title. Then he added the lightweight strap to his collection. This made him the first UFC fighter to hold two titles simultaneously. Suddenly he was the most high-profile MMA fighter ever.
But this wasn’t enough for ‘The Notorious.’ He went after a major payday in Floyd Mayweather. The pair finally fought in 2017 with a lot of attention on the crossover clash. In the end, Mayweather’s boxing prowess was just too much for McGregor. However, he did make nearly $100 million for the fight, so it wasn’t all bad.