Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Five Ounces of Pain: Angle eyes entry into MMA

By Sam Caplan

It's a few minutes after 11 on a Wednesday morning when the phone rings.

"Hello, this is Kurt Angle," the voice says on the other end.

Just then it hits me: I'm on the phone with a former Olympic gold medalist and WWE champion. But there's an important matter to be discussed: Angle's potential entry into mixed martial arts.

Since leaving WWE this past summer (Angle claims he left on his own accord, while his former employer claims he was dismissed) his physical wellbeing has been a hot button issue among his fans and critics. Rumors of painkiller addiction, along with a neck that has been broken on multiple occasions, have been topics of concern.

"I'm doing really well," Angle said. "I had some severe neck injuries over the last seven years. I had four neck injuries, plus the fifth one where I broke my neck in the Olympics. I'm actually almost 100 percent now, and I wouldn't go into mixed martial arts without the knowledge of knowing that I'm 100 percent and I feel good."

"Go into mixed martial arts" is the operative phrase, as thus far, Angle has done his fair share of talking but hasn't done much in the way of action.

Angle's sincerity regarding a possible MMA crossover has been called into question by several pundits, including UFC president Dana White. White referred to Angle as being "Full of s---" during a video interview for a Fox television pilot called The Fight Game.

White softened his comments in an interview conducted with CBS several weeks ago, but still expressed skepticism.

"I like Kurt," White said. "I've talked to Kurt a bunch of times. I'm just not sure how committed he is to fighting. I made him an offer before and he went over and did TNA wrestling. I don't know."

White isn't the only one who isn't sold on Angle's comments. Various pundits have claimed Angle's public flirtation with MMA is nothing more than a public relations ploy.

"Those pundits are wrong," Angle said calmly. "I would never say something that I wasn't going to do. Whoever's criticizing me must not know me. I won an Olympic gold medal with a broken neck and I'm 100 percent healthy now. I think it will be hell of a lot easier for me to fight a fight with my neck healthy than with a broken neck."

The former Olympic gold medalist has also seen his name surface in the headlines for a topic unrelated to MMA. An article on Sports Illustrated's web site claimed Angle's name appeared on a list of major pro athletes having received steroids from Applied Pharmacy Services in Mobile, Ala. The report claimed Angle received two shipments between October 2004 and February 2005.

In a statement issued after the allegations, Angle denied any wrong doing.

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