Who makes the All-MMA football team?
The NFL Draft is here!
Starting on Thursday, April 27, around 300 of the best college football players will hope that they are picked within the seven rounds and the 259 selections. Easily the most enjoyable and intriguing draft season (sorry other major American sports fans), the NFL Draft is one of those events that fans of every sport will keep an eye on to see who will be the No. 1 overall pick.
Such a 'drafting system' does not work nor exists within our beloved sport of mixed martial arts. A draft could've been simulated with MMA's biggest stars and promotions but instead, we've focused on building the 2023 All-MMA NFL team that will take the field come Week 1 of the 2023 NFL season (hypothetically speaking).
Before the reveal, a few ground rules have to be set. The positions selected will be the classic 11 positions one can find on a football field. There will be no flex-tight ends, no sixth offensive linemen, and certainly no double running backs. The defense will be set up in a 4-3 scheme with two safeties and two cornerbacks.
The final rule is that we are more or less disregarding weight classes. Instead of focusing on their 'fight weight', which would mean only the heavyweights and maybe a few light heavyweights can compete, the only physical tool that was taken into account was their height. We've also only used active MMA fighters, so no Brock Lesnar allowed. Without further ado, here is FanSided MMA's All-MMA NFL team.
FanSided MMA's All-MMA NFL football team
Quarterback: Israel Adesanya (UFC)
Other than Connor McGregor, no man can claim to be the face of the UFC and MMA as a whole than the UFC's middleweight champion Israel Adesanya. A much more active fighter than McGregor, Adesanya has built a legacy matched by few in the sport, which is exactly what we need at quarterback.
The face of the franchise needs to be recognizable and extremely popular with all demographics, something Adesanya possesses much more than McGregor. He is also 6 foot 4, the perfect height for a starting quarterback, and should weigh over 200 pounds come OTAs. His precision punching can lend itself to high accuracy and he's fast enough to make plays outside of the pocket. Overall, he's the perfect QB1 to lead this team to glory.
Running Back: Alex Volkanovski (UFC)
Lining up behind Adesanya in the I-formation, former rugby league star and current UFC featherweight champion Alex Volkanovski gets the nod. He might only be 5 foot 6, putting him amongst the smallest running backs in the league, but his experience, toughness, and quickness makes him the perfect candidate to play as our back.
Given he is usually fighting opponents larger than him and weighed around 210 pounds while he played rugby, Volkanovski makes the perfect sense. His speed and faints would help him find the gap between the linemen, he can definitely dish out a stiff arm or two, and his size would make him a nightmare for any defender to try to catch. He can go over 1,000 yards in his first season.
Fullback: Jairzinho Rozenstruik (UFC)
Opening up holes for Volkanovski and being an extra protector for Adesanya, Rozenstruik will have his hands full as the team's fullback. Not that that's a bad thing. The man who is literally nicknamed "Big Boy", Rozenstruik is one of the few MMA athletes who could feasibly make the transition to the NFL given his size and athleticism.
He also played basketball and soccer growing up as well as amassing 85 fights in kickboxing. He might weigh 265 pounds but Rozenstruik clearly has light feet to help open up holes. He is also extremely powerful, giving Adesanya extra confidence if he needs to take a five-step drop back while Rozenstruik blocks. Just imagine Rozenstruik at the 1-yard line plowing through for a fullback sneak touchdown. He'd be the second coming of William 'The Refrigerator' Perry.
Wide Receiver 1: Max Holloway (UFC)
Volkanovski's arch-nemesis joins the team but the two will have to behave to give this offense a chance to score points. They say you have to build your receiver room like a basketball lineup so we've chosen Max Holloway to take the role of the speedster.
One of the toughest fighters in MMA history, Holloway can both dish and receive punishment without breaking a sweat. A man who is yet to be knocked down in his UFC career, his role here would be simply get past his defender for Adesanya to drop the ball into his hands. He'd line up on the outside, using his hands, speed, and quick feet to gain separation and become the team's big-play threat.
Wide Receiver 2: Leon Edwards (UFC)
If Max Holloway is going to run out-routes and posts all game long, we're going to need a do-it all receiver. The UFC's welterweight champion Leon Edwards can do just that. A fighter who has improved tremendously with each passing fight, expect Edwards to become the savvy route runner Adesanya can always rely on to be open.
He may not be the quickest but he's definitely got good hands and great fight IQ that could translate over to playing receiver. Standing at 6 foot 2, he can become this team's Keenan Allen. Reliable, strong, and always open.
Wide Receiver 3: Islam Makhachev (UFC)
The third and final receiver will play in the slot and the perfect candidate is one of MMA's top pound-for-pound fighters. A slot receiver needs to be quick, with really good hands, and even tougher than the other two given his routes all go through the middle of the field. Islam Makhachev would relish in the role.
Many people question whether Makhachev is a 'weight bully' of sort for cutting so much weight so the NFL would be the perfect place for him to let himself go a little. With his elite-level sambo, he can handle anyone through the middle who wants to put their hands on him and use his strong hands to bring down any ball thrown his way. On third-and-6 or longer, Makhachev is the go to guy.
Tight End: Ciryl Gane (UFC)
The tight end for this team needs to be a freak athlete with good size who can be the safety blanket for the quarterback. Long gone are the days when tight ends were expected to be just an extra blocker instead of getting down the field. The man to fill this exact new era of tight ends is non-other than former title challenger Ciryl Gane.
Standing at 6 foot 5 and weighing 250 pounds, it is incredible how light on his feet he tends to be. This translates directly into good feet and route running to help him separate in the NFL. If need be, he can definitely be an extra blocker but Gane's role will be that of Travis Kelce. Find the spot in the middle of the field and get open for big gains.
Offensive Lineman: Ben Rothwell (BKFC), Sergei Pavlovich (UFC), Tai Tuivasa (UFC), Arjan Bullhar (ONE Championship), and Curtis Blaydes (UFC)
We'll spare you the details of how each one of these heavyweights will turn out in our NFL team, however, few offensive lines will be scarier than the one assembled right here. All huge men with ridiculous power and a low centre of gravity, the o-line might not have the height of an NFL's o-line but it definitely has the toughness and heart.
The one thing that this o-line has is tremendous power to push opponents. Perhaps the pass blocking reps will show the lack of talent but that is why Curtis Blaydes is here. The two-time NJCAA All-American can provide the calmness and leadership that this line will need if they are to get anywhere close to the Lombardi trophy.
Defensive Tackles: Francis Ngannou (free agent) and Derrick Lewis (UFC)
Two men with the scariest punches all around the world, the defensive tackle partnership of Francis Ngannou and Derrick Lewis seems like the one formed by a Super Bowl contender. Given that they both CUT WEIGHT to make 265 pounds, they'll probably both show up to training camp tipping the scales at 300 pounds.
With the hands the two possess, they'll be able to get off the snap quickly and be disruptive in the backfield. If an opposing team even dares to run against them, their power will be enough to send any running back into the injury list. Expect a lot of flags for unnecessary roughness with these two on the field side-by-side.
Edge Rusher 1: Jon Jones (UFC)
The brother of Super Bowl winning edge rusher Chandler Jones, it was without a doubt the position that Jon Jones has to fill in our team. Given his length, Jones could stand up or put his hand on the dirt to rush the passer. The fact his brother can teach him a few extra moves during the holiday season gives us more of an incentive to pick him.
Jones also possesses some of the highest IQ in all of MMA (at least, inside the Octagon) and could develop multiple pass rushing moves to get to the quarterback. At 6 foot 4, he'd be a nightmare for any offensive tackle to deal with.
Edge Rusher 2: Jamahal Hill (UFC)
Since we've already selected two big, hulking defensive tackles, let's stick with athletic edge rushers who can play either on their feet or with their hand down on the dirt. There isn't another fluid heavyweight like Jones or Gane to pick so let's move on to Jamahal Hill.
Another freak athlete given his size, Hill has shown to have power in his hands and speed that is hard to deal with at light heavyweight. The current champion put a beating on Glover Teixeira when the two met, leading to the latter's retirement. With Jones and Hill on the edge, the versatility of the pass rushing quartet will be one of the best in the league.
Linebackers: Alex Pereira (UFC), Khamzat Chimaev (UFC), and Michael Chandler (UFC)
Since the formation sets the team up with four pass rushers and three linebackers, these three are tasked with taking care of the middle of the field and everything else in between. As to who plays on the left or right it is yet to be decided but Alex Pereira will undoubtedly be the middle linebacker.
Can you imagine any quarterback about to take a snap and they have to stare into Pereira's cold and terrifying stare? They'd throw it away before he can even get close to them. With these three tasked with flying around the field making plays, the pace that Khamzat Chimaev likes to put on opponents would be perfect for the NFL. Michael Chandler is indeed minuscule to play linebacker in the NFL yet his high-motor, tenacity, and ability to take a hit while giving it out makes him perfect for our All-MMA NFL team.
Cornerbacks: Sean O'Malley (UFC) and Shavkat Rakhmonov (UFC)
The corners for this team need to be fast, agile, and be able to pin point the ball to get us loads of interceptions. They won't get any help as from extra defensive backs outside of the safeties since our team relies on getting to the quarterback before the ball is even thrown. That's why Sean O'Malley and Shavkat Rakhmonov would be the perfect cornerback pairing.
O'Malley has the speed, the hands, and the swagger to play corner. He'd definitely be chewing off his opponent's ear at the line of scrimmage and he'd be able to keep up with the fast receivers in the NFL. Shavkat Rakhmonov is quite simply a dog. Finishing all of his professional wins, still undefeated, and standing at 6 foot 2, Rakhmonov can be placed on an island where he will make receiver's lives a living hell.
Strong Safety: Justin Gaethje (UFC)
The strong safety position is a strange one in the NFL. If you're not fast enough to play corner, have the hands to play receiver, and are too small to play linebacker, then congratulations, you fit the criteria to play strong safety. Sometimes the craziest players on the field, such as the likes of Ronnie Lott and Troy Polamalu, Justin Gaethje has that same mad streak that will make him the perfect man to crash the box.
Often told to slow down and stop throwing power punches by his coaches, Gaethje never seems to listen. He goes hard with every hit, hoping to incapacitate his opponent's with everything he throws. Gaethje would bring back the old school safety that every defender feared getting close to.
Free Safety: Cory Sandhagen (UFC)
Partnering Gaethje at the back is non-other than top bantamweight contender Cory Sandhagen. His size shouldn't be a problem given he is 5 foot 11 and his patience in fights to find the right moment to strike pairs perfectly with what the free safety position entails.
A long, fast, and rangy athlete, Sandhagen would provide cover for O'Malley in case he gets blown past or if Gaethje has decided to go head hunting and is nowhere near to help out. He'd be the perfect complement to Gaethje's reckless nature at the back of the field.
Punter and Kicker: Yair Rodriguez (UFC) and Santiago Ponzinibbio (UFC)
The final two positions on the team will be filled by the two men who look the most likely to know how to kick a ball. Yair Rodriguez has some of the flashiest and spectacular kicks in all of MMA, and it has led him all the way into a unification title fight against Alex Volkanovski at UFC 290.
Santiago Ponzinibbio takes the final spot as the team's kicker after telling everybody in the roster that no one can kick the ball better than him since he is from Argentina, the home of the soccer World Cup champions. Whether we will see the second coming of Lionel Messi or an MMA fighter trying to kick 60 yard field goals remains to be seen.