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June 5, 2016

How Muhammad Ali influenced professional wrestling, MMA

With the passing of Muhammad Ali, much of the talk about his legacy surrounds his contributions inside the squared circle. But Ali’s legacy extends beyond the boundaries of the sweet science as his influence bled into the worlds of professional wrestling and mixed martial arts.

The man known as the “Louisville Lip” is often credited for his influence on the world of professional wrestling and the wrestler’s ability to “cut a promo” in order to sell their upcoming match.

However, Ali has publicly credited professional wrestling for shaping and molding his ability to promote a boxing match like no other. It was in 1961 when Ali met pro wrestling superstar Gorgeous George that the future boxing champion realized the significance of selling a fight. In the autobiography “Muhammad Ali: His Life And Times,” Thomas Houser documents how the flamboyant and charismatic professional wrestler affected Ali.

“[George] started shouting: ‘If this bum beats me I’ll crawl across the ring and cut off my hair, but it’s not gonna happen because I’m the greatest fighter in the world,' " Ali told Houser of when he met Gorgeous George. “And all the time, I was saying to myself: ‘Man. I want to see this fight’ And the whole place was sold out when Gorgeous George wrestled … including me … and that’s when I decided if I talked more, there was no telling how much people would pay to see me.”

Ali would go on to establish a legacy of pre-fight theatrics that would hold just as much significance outside of the ring as the action inside of it...More?

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