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TNA Wrestling world champion Bobby Lashley trades sports entertainment for shot at MMA glory

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Bobby Lashley has shaved Vince McMahon bald and speared a guy named Samoa Joe.

He can surely entertain in mixed martial arts.

With his debut for Bellator looming, Lashley wants to show he's just as dominant when the competition is for real inside an MMA cage.

Lashley has been a professional wrestling fixture for most of the last decade. He has mixed it up with McMahon at WrestleMania and currently stands tall as the TNA Wrestling heavyweight champion.

But that's sports entertainment. Lashley, 6-foot-2, 265 pounds, is up for sport and he turned to Bellator to get his fix. Lashley fights Josh Burns in a heavyweight feature bout at Bellator 123 on Friday.

Lashley is no Brock Lesnar, another wrestler-turned-fighter. But he just might be the first fighter to win televised fights in two different promotions in the same week.

"TNA has been really good with me and they really understand the importance of me fighting," Lashley said. "It's been a smooth transition."

Bellator featherweight champion Pat Curran defends against Brazilian striker Patricio Pitbull in the main event of the Spike TV card held at Connecticut's Mohegan Sun Casino, just a few miles down the road from UFC's competing Fight Night 50 card at Foxwoods Resort Casino on Fox Sports 1.

Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal and Cheick Kongo also have a spot on perhaps Bellator's biggest card of the year.

It also goes kick-to-kick against UFC in a primetime showdown between the MMA promotions.

"I don't know if we're competing with the UFC," Lawal said. "I think we should just compete with ourselves, just build and do things that can make the organization grow. We're just trying to fight for respect. We want to be respected and it's going to happen."

TNA and Bellator have maintained a loose affiliation through their TV deal with Spike TV and Lashley, Lawal, Jackson, and Tito Ortiz have all fought — for real and for entertainment — in some fashion for both organizations.

"I'm focused on fighting right now. But if I have time to wrestle, I will," Lawal said. "Pro wrestling is easier on the body, man. Pro wrestling is more fun."

Lashley won his title match against Samoa Joe on a taped "Impact Wrestling" on Wednesday night. He also has a 10-2 mixed martial arts record fighting in smaller promotions.

"I will do everything I can to make sure I'm successful in my title run," Lashley said.

TNA morphed into WWE-lite for a spell, believing signing castoffs like Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, Mick Foley and Kevin Nash would boost ratings and give the second-tier organization some needed credibility. It's now at a crossroads with its TV deal in limbo and no domestic live events scheduled after Sep. 19.

Bellator has taken the same gamble — which flopped for TNA — that signing former big UFC names like Ortiz, Jackson and Stephan Bonnar can puff up mainstream media attention and earn more slots on pay-per-view.

Bellator has pinned its resurgent hopes on former Strikeforce founder Scott Coker. Coker took over for Bjorn Rebney in June during a management shakeup and has steered Bellator away from a tournament-based organization into one with a more traditional, big-fight model.

Lawal, a former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion, was so enthused by the management switch that he signed a long-term contract extension with Bellator last month.

Lawal said he would not have signed had Rebney been in charge because Coker has more credibility and respect in the MMA community.

WWE and UFC are the dominant organizations in their respective fields, and both TNA and Bellator are playing catch up. Lashley has built a solid career, but the bar from cross-promotional success was set by Lesnar, who has headlined major UFC and WWE pay-per-views as champion. Lashley's championship reign could be short lived if he loses Friday and TNA decides to take his belt heading into their "Bound For Glory" PPV.

Lashley starred in WWE for a time and was involved in a "Battle of the Billionaires" match at WrestleMania in 2007, representing Donald Trump in a match that resulted in McMahon being shaved bald. His lone regret? Not saving some of McMahon's hair as a souvenir.

"I could have put it on eBay," he said.

Less than a year later, he was gone from WWE and started chasing an MMA career.

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