ByJoshua Molina, writer at Creators.co
Award-winning journalist. Covers mixed martial arts and professional wrestling and the convergence of the two industries.
Joshua Molina

Former NFL player, Shawne Merriman is the latest professional athlete to consider jumping into the world of mixed martial arts.

Merriman spent most of his career--from 2005 to 2010--with the San Diego Chargers before retiring in 2012, after two years with the Buffalo Bills. The 6'4" tall, 265 pound linebacker has dreams of knocking grown men down without wearing pads, and has been in talks with Bellator president, Scott Coker about a possible, special attraction fight in the Number 2 mixed martial arts promotion in the world.

He told TMZ recently that it could happen, and if it does, he thinks he'd do better than CM Punk did in the Octagon.

With MMA growing in popularity, more professional athletes are likely to try to step into the sport, particularly if they are big names and there's money to be made. MMA gains by exposing the sport to a larger audience and the individual athlete grows his or her brand by also being able to market themselves as an MMA fighter.

CM Punk, a former WWE star, recently jumped from the squared circle into the Octagon. Former WWE wrestler, Ryback is also talking with Bellator about a possible fight.

Bellator already has one former WWE star on its roster, Bobby Lashley. Lashley was a collegiate wrestling star who jumped from the WWE to MMA several years ago. Lashley has an MMA record of 14-2.

One of the biggest named professional athletes to try their hand at mixed martial arts was Herschel Walker, who fought twice for Strikeforce, a longtime staple promotion that was eventually acquired by the UFC's original parent company, Zuffa.

Here's Walker during his MMA fighting days.

Professional boxers have attempted to fight also, with mixed results.

Former heavyweight champion of the world, Ray Mercer enjoyed a decent MMA career.

Mercer knocked out Tim Sylvia in nine seconds at Adrenaline MMA 3: Bragging Rights in 2009. Watch the wicked shot below:

Mercer, however, wasn't as successful against Kimbo Slice, in his sole amateur fight.

One of the greatest middleweights of all time, James "Lights Out" Toney was also lured into the world of MMA, but it didn't end well for him.

Toney was matched against UFC legend, Randy "The Natural" Couture.

Couture submitted Toney with a rear naked choke at 3:19 of the first round.

Could others jump ship?

Boxers Tyson Fury and Amir Khan have flirted with the idea of fighting in MMA.

Is Merriman all talk, or will we see him follow CM Punk into the cage?

What about CM Punk vs. Merriman? Weight class aside, the good news is that somebody would have to win.

Merriman spoke with Champions.co about fighting several weeks ago; here's what he said about possibly fighting for Bellator.