9 Famous athletes Who Have Changed Sports

Becoming a professional athlete in any sporting discipline undoubtedly requires plenty of talent, hard work and commitment.

As highlighted by a recent golf challenge staged by Betway, many stars yearn to excel in something other than their chosen sport.

Four Premier League footballers tested their skills on the golf course, possibly with a view to embarking on another career when their playing days end.

We take a look at several other top athletes who have shown they have the talent to switch from their chosen sport into another discipline.

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1. Conor McGregor


McGregor’s ability to market himself played a key role in mixed martial arts being taken more seriously in sporting circles over the past few years.

The Irishman attracted massive interest whenever he fought, which made a switch into the lucrative world of boxing almost inevitable.

He made his professional boxing debut aged 29 against the undefeated Floyd Mayweather Jr in a fight that grossed more than $55 million at the gate.

Although he was beaten in the tenth round by TKO, the fact that McGregor had the bottle to face Mayweather Jr is an achievement in itself.

2. Greg Hardy


Hardy first made a name for himself in the NFL with the Carolina Panthers, setting a single-season record of 15 sacks for the franchise in 2013.

He retired from American Football two years later, before announcing that he would embark on an MMA career the following year.

Hardy won seven of his first nine fights in the professional ranks, while another victory was declared as a no contest after he used an inhaler in between rounds.

Three successive defeats saw Hardy released by the UFC in March 2023 and it is unclear whether the 33-year-old will continue with a different MMA promotion.

3. Dave Winfield


Many younger readers will probably be thinking ‘Dave who?’ at this point, but Winfield unquestionably deserves mentioning in this list.

Before his baseball career started, he was drafted by four teams in three different sports – something that is unheard of in the modern era.

The San Diego Padres took him fourth overall in baseball, while the Atlanta Hawks and Utah Stars drafted him in basketball.

The Minnesota Vikings also drafted him in football, but his decision to stick with baseball proved correct as he was inducted into the sport’s Hall of Fame in 2001.

4. Ronda Rousey


Rousey was the first American female to earn an Olympic medal in judo by winning bronze at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

She subsequently switched to MMA, becoming Strikeforce’s last Women’s Bantamweight Champion before its acquisition by the UFC.

Punishing defeats against Holly Holm and Amanda Nunes shattered the aura surrounding Rousey and she retired from the sport in 2016.

The 35-year-old has since joined the WWE and recently triumphed in the Women’s Royal Rumble match in St Louis, Missouri.

5. Michael Jordan


Jordan’s status as an all-time great in basketball cannot be questioned, with the great man winning six NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls during the 1990s.

His decision to temporarily take up baseball in 1993 received widespread criticism, particularly as he was at the peak of his powers in the NBA at the time.

Jordan signed with the Chicago White Sox and joined minor league affiliate Birmingham Barons, but he initially struggled to cope with the switch in sports.

However, he eventually improved enough to hit several home runs, but decided to return to basketball in March 1995.

6. Usain Bolt


Eight-time Olympic gold medal winner Usain Bolt had long talked about using his sprinting skills to make the grade as a professional footballer.

Bolt trained with clubs in South Africa, Norway and Germany, before signing a two-year contract with Australia’s Central Coast Mariners.

Perth Glory forward Andy Keogh was critical of Bolt’s ability, saying that his first touch is ‘like a trampoline’ and dismissing his signing as a publicity stunt.

Bolt left the Mariners in early November 2018 after eight weeks with the club and has since decided to retire completely from professional sports.

7. Brock Lesnar


In addition to transitioning between MMA and the WWE, Lesnar has also attempted to break into the NFL ranks with the Minnesota Vikings.

His performances at the combine, where college players have the chance to impress NFL scouts, were good enough for the Vikings to offer Lesnar a deal.

Lesnar featured in several pre-season games, but his struggles with a persistent groin injury resulted in him being released by the club.

He was subsequently invited to play as a representative for the Vikings in NFL Europa, but rejected the offer to stay in the United States with his family.

8. Bruce Arena


Arena was the manager of the United States national football team at two World Cups and also represented his country once in an international as goalkeeper.

During his collegiate athletic career he played both football and lacrosse at Nassau Community College, and reached a high level in both disciplines.

The New York Cosmos drafted him in the fifth round of the North American Soccer League college draft, but released him before the season.

Arena played for the national lacrosse team which won the 1974 World Lacrosse Championship, but he eventually settled on football as his main sport.

9. Bob Hayes


Hayes set a world record in the 100-metres at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, before adding another gold medal in the 4×100-metres relay.

He then successfully switched to American Football with the Dallas Cowboys, helping the team win the Super Bowl in 1971.

Hayes was also a three-time Pro Bowler, selected in two All-Pro teams and inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009.

He had a brief spell with the San Francisco 49ers in 1975, but was released in October that year after finally running out of steam.