Kurt Angle

Kurt Angle.

It’s a name in a lot of circles that people associate with one of the most famous pro wrestlers of the last 20 years.

To others, Angle is known as the 1996 Gold Medal winner for the United States Olympic team in wrestling.

What some people may not know is that Angle, on a few different occasions, has flirted with the idea of moving into the world of mixed martial arts.

Following the 1996 Olympics, Angle returned home from the Atlanta games and started to map out the next stage of his life. According to the former Clarion University wrestler, the road forked in two major directions. One pointed towards MMA and the other lead towards a career in professional wrestling.

“Right after the Olympics, I had the chance,” Angle told MMAWeekly Radio about the chance to do MMA. “Was I going to go into pro wrestling or the UFC? I talked to the UFC, but at the time they were only paying their top fighters 15 grand to fight, and here WWE throws this big contract at me. It’s kind of like, let me see, do I struggle and go in the UFC or do I go here and make a bunch of money? Obviously, the decision was very easy.

“Then when the UFC started to become popular, I started to say ‘oh boy, I really should have done that. I don’t know why I didn’t do that. That’s more my cup of tea,’ and then when I was getting ready to make the switch in 2003, I broke my neck.”

Angle had neck surgery in 2003 to repair nerve and spinal damage, as well as other existing problems, and following his recovery, he went back to the WWE where he stayed until 2006.

Eventually, Angle ended up with TNA wrestling where he continues to work now. His goals, however, have shifted a bit over the last several months.

Angle’s passion for wrestling never really went away, but with the 2012 Olympics just around the corner, the former gold medalist started to feel that hunger inside him to compete again. Now in full training mode, Angle’s goal isn’t just to make it onto the U.S. Olympic team, but to reach medal status once again.

“I’ve been training for five months. I contacted USA Wrestling. By the end of the year, I will probably be out at the Olympic training center for periods of time. Their concern was ‘Kurt, are you really doing this? We need you out here because if you make the team, God willing, we want you to medal,’” Angle stated.

“So they know I’m making a very serious approach at this, and if I do make the team and I do beat the guys in my weight class, they want to make sure I’m ready to medal.”

Before his training for wrestling got back into full swing, Angle landed a role in the upcoming MMA film “Warrior,” in which he plays an undefeated Russian middleweight named “Koba.” Once he was cast in the role, Angle really enjoyed training and participating in MMA drills, even if they were scripted for film.

It was then that Angle flashed back to more than a decade ago when he made that pivotal choice to go into pro wrestling instead of MMA. He says he picked up the phone and called UFC president Dana White and discussed a possible turn back to the world of professional fighting.

“I actually contacted Dana White again after the movie. I flew out to meet him once and got a great offer. I contacted him again, I was thinking about dropping out of Impact wrestling, and there were some personal problems with my marriage and I just wanted to get away. I contacted Dana White, I flew out, and he had me take the UFC physical. I passed it, thank God, and he gave me the offer,” Angle stated.

“The terms weren’t good, I mean not for me, and the terms I gave him weren’t good for him. He wanted me ready in four-and-a-half weeks; I wanted three to six months. So I respect Dana White and I love him to death, very good friend. I knew I was capable of winning in four-and-a-half weeks, but I wanted to be at my best.”

While he was unavailable for direct comment about Kurt Angle, White did respond on Twitter when asked if he made the former Olympian an offer. He tweeted, “love Kurt, but not true.”

Angle, however, didn’t budge in his version of the story that he was close to terms with the UFC just recently. Whatever happened, Angle obviously didn’t sign or decide to move into MMA, and will try his hand at the Olympics instead.

If Angle is successful in making the Olympic team, he will go into the 2012 games at 43 years of age. Still, Angle won’t let age be a factor, and when the Olympics are over, can he say with absolute certainty that he wouldn’t once again consider a run at MMA?

“That remains to be seen. Depending on how good I do, I can’t say no,” Angle admitted. “Obviously, it’s going to raise Dana White’s eyebrows. He actually sat me down and said, ‘Kurt, if you do this, is your neck okay? Are you well enough to do this, cause I know you’ve taken a pounding the last 10 years?’ and I said, ‘Dana, I’m fine. Yeah, I broke my neck five different times, but I have never felt better than now. I’ve had setbacks, but I’m fine.’

“I can’t tell you till that time comes, but I tell you what, even making the USA team, the top two or three, it would raise Dana White’s eyebrows. My goal is to make the team. If you make the team in the United States, you have more than a better shot of medaling.”

Angle also doesn’t discount staying with his family at TNA wrestling or maybe even making a shift to Bellator Fighting Championships, who he says will end up on Spike TV at some point in the near future. Spike TV also broadcasts TNA wrestling on the network.

“Who knows? Let’s see what happens,” Angle said. “I’m not counting out Bellator either. They’re going to be on Spike soon and you never know what’s going to happen with that company, they could flourish. The way Spike promoted the UFC, they could do the same for them.”

With “Warrior” set to be released on Sept. 9, Angle may have a refueled passion for MMA, but he still knows his best days ahead will see him in front of the camera acting, but not necessarily as a professional wrestler.

“My long-term goal is to be an actor. That’s why having the opportunity to be in an incredible movie like ‘Warrior’ is a plus for me, because I think a lot of people are going to watch it,” said Angle. “There’s going to be a lot of directors and producers that watch it. There’s going to be a lot of casting agents that are going to watch it.”

“Warrior” opens nationwide on Sept. 9. The U.S. Olympic wrestling trials will be held in Iowa City, Iowa, in April 2012, to determine the team that will go to London for the 2012 Olympics. Will Kurt Angle be on the roster? He thinks so.

Follow @DamonMartin on Twitter or e-mail Damon Martin.
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