Former World Wrestling Entertainment performer and decorated amateur wrestler Bobby Lashley is the latest signing for the Kentucky-based American Fight League.
A source close to the 31-year-old told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com
) that Lashley will be introduced as an AFL signee -- perhaps the organization's biggest to date -- during tonight's "Bulletproof" show at Phillips Arena in Atlanta.
Rumors of Lashley's possible transition into MMA heated up over the past month, but few expected such a high-profile figure to sign with an organization so new to the national scene.
AFL officials declined to comment today, but one executive said some "major signings" will be announced at tonight's show, which features a main event between AFL lightweight champ and former UFC fighter Diego Saraiva.
Terms of Lashley's contract aren't known, but it's expected to be a non-exclusive deal.
Lashley, a two-time NAIA national wrestling champion while at Missouri Valley College, also won two armed-forces titles while serving in the U.S. Army. He signed with the WWE in 2003 and debuted with the organization in 2005. His character won titles in both the WWE and Extreme Championship Wrestling organizations.
Lashley received some mainstream popularity when he was chosen to represent Donald Trump in a "Hair vs. Hair match" with WWE Chairman Vince McMahon in 2007. Lashley won the staged match, so McMahon was forced to shave his head. However, Lashley was released from his WWE contract earlier this year.
Lashley, of course, won't be the first WWE wrestler turned MMA fighter. Former WWE superstar Brock Lesnar signed with the UFC in 2007 and debuted with the organization in February. Lashley is unlikely to match Lesnar's popularity in MMA, but like his fellow WWE alumnus, he's likely to convert some pro-wrestling fans into MMA viewers.
The AFL, a Kentucky-based organization born from the Caged Inferno promotion, has held three events to date. Its first arena show was held in March at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky. Tonight's "Bulletproof" show (see our event preview) is the first-ever MMA event to take place in Phillips Arena, which is September's rumored UFC 88 host venue.
The AFL's other recent signings include Saraiva, "The Ultimate Fighter 2" cast member Dan Christison, highly ranked featherweight Raphael Assuncao, UFC veteran Junior Assuncao, and highly touted prospect Douglas Lima.