Dwayne Johnson opens up on previous interest in fighting in PRIDE: “I’m going to get f*cked up”

By Josh Evanoff - November 15, 2023

Dwayne Johnson now works closely with the UFC, but nearly joined their main competitor two decades ago.

Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson

‘The Rock’ is famously one of the biggest stars in professional wrestling history. However, many MMA fans likely aren’t aware that his success wasn’t automatic. In 1997, Dwayne Johnson was famously on the outs with the company, as fans badly hated him. As a result, he began to look to a different sport.

During a recent appearance on The Joe Rogan Experience, Dwayne Johnson opened up on his MMA past. There, he revealed that he actually spoke to Ken Shamrock and Mark Kerr about potentially fighting in PRIDE. The Japanese fighting promotion was paid quite well, especially to other companies at the time. However, he didn’t make the jump.

Ultimately, Dwayne Johnson’s WWE career eventually took off, making the jump to PRIDE unnecessary. Still, the pro wrestler has remained a fan of MMA and continues to work with the UFC to this day. Last year, his Project Rock shoe brand famously became a sponsor of the company.


Dwayne Johnson and Themba Gorimbo

“97, I was still going to LA and working out.” Dwayne Johnson stated on The Joe Rogan Experience. “We were crossing all the MMA guys. PRIDE just opened up in Japan. I started seeing all these MMA guys going over to PRIDE. At that time, I was making $150,000 dollars wrestling 235 days a year. Do the math on that and how much you’re making per match. We start hearing, ‘These guys in PRIDE are making $250,000, $350,000, $500,000.’ I thought then, ‘F*ck, I don’t think I’m going to make it in WWE. People are booing me out of the arenas. I can’t be myself. They’re telling me to f*cking smile, I don’t want to f*cking smile. That’s not who I am.'” (h/t FightFul)

He continued, “I start talking to Ken Shamrock, I start talking with Mark Kerr, ‘tell me about PRIDE.’ I have this idea in my head ‘maybe I should train in MMA, go to PRIDE, and make real money and I don’t have to smile.’ I’m going to get fucked up, knock one of my lungs loose [laughs], but if I find the right coach and train….I have this whole thing in my head. I’m talking to my wife at the time, ‘I think this is the way to go. I can make real money while these fans are booing me for $150 grand.'”

What do you make of these comments from Dwayne Johnson? How do you think ‘The Rock’ would’ve performed in MMA?


Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson UFC