Kurt Angle has sensationally revealed he almost joined the UFC on three different occasions.
Before he became a WWE legend, the 54-year-old was a two-time NCAA Division I champion and an Olympic gold medallist wrestler contemplating a career in MMA.
Though he ultimately snubbed a venture into the UFC in the 1990s as he felt the money wasn’t good enough.
“I got offered three different times,” Angle told ESPN.
“First time was right after the Olympics in 1996, Dana White wasn’t involved with the UFC back then. They came to me, and they gave me their best contract, and it wasn’t a very good contract.
“It was ten fights for $150,000 [£120k]. That’s $15,000 [£12k] per fight. And that was the highest they were giving to the fighters for the fights.
“I was like, ‘you know what, that doesn’t sound right. I love fighting, but I don’t love it that much to get my butt kicked for 15 grand.’ So, I decided to go to the WWE.”
A decade later Angle revisited his MMA dream when he became a free agent after winning multiple titles in WWE, but it didn’t work out despite more money being on the table.
“In 2006, when I left the WWE, my manager contacted Dana White. I was curious whether I could fight,” he said.
“Dana flew me out and put me up in a really nice penthouse suite. He offered me a deal and I considered it, and I ended up turning it down.
“The reason I turned it down in 2006 was because I just signed a contract with TNA, and Dana White would not let me wrestle and fight at the same time.
“And I didn’t want to go back to TNA and say, ‘listen, that contract I just signed is null and void.’ So I didn’t want to do that and I wanted to respect their wishes.
“Dana White told me ‘when you’re done with wrestling, come back to me,’ and I did.”
Three years on, Angle’s wrestling career was at another crossroads.
The WWE Hall of Famer got a big offer from the UFC boss, but he ultimately decided he was too old to try his luck in MMA.
“When I thought I was going to be done with wrestling, I went back to Dana, and Dana came back with an idea to be in (The Ultimate Fighter) with Kimbo Slice,” Angle remarked.
“I considered it. And I said, ‘well, Dana, you don’t pay those guys to be on TV.’ And he said, ‘I know, but I’ll give you a half-million [dollars, £400k] to be on the show.
“And then I’ll give you this contract, a six-fight deal, regardless of whether you win it, The Ultimate Fighter, or not. You’ll have a contract when it’s over.’
“I thought about it. At that point in my life, I was 41 years old. I broke my neck five times. I started training for it a little bit, and I realised, ‘I’m past my prime, I can’t do this’.”
After seeing fellow professional wrestling star Brock Lesnar go on to become a UFC champion, Angle admits he does sometimes wonder if he made the correct decision.
He said: “Every once in a while it gets to me. When I watch these fights, I’m like ‘gosh man, I think I would’ve done pretty well in this.’
“Seeing Brock Lesnar and my friend become UFC champion, seeing Randy Couture, who I trained with for the Olympics being UFC champion.
“It makes you question ‘did you do the right thing?’ But I look back and I say ‘you know what? I had a pretty stellar career in pro-wrestling’, so I can’t regret that.”
In 2023, Angle is regarded as an icon by many and still makes money from his sporadic WWE appearances and is certainly doing better than most MMA fighters in their fifties.