It’s hard to think of now, but there was a time when The Rock was struggling to make it in Hollywood, doing movies like The Rundown and Walking Tall. He wasn’t doing well. It was bad enough, in fact, that he considered a career change.
As he told the UFC Unfiltered podcast, he thought of a move to the Octagon back in 2004:
"I did. I had a thought back in... well, when I was in college I saw the first UFC that came out. We were playing down at University of Miami and I loved it then but at that time, football was my number one priority and trying to make it into the NFL. Then I always felt like I could fall back on wrestling because I grew up in the world of wrestling with my family, they were all wrestlers. When I quietly retired from the WWE in 2004 ... I wanted to concentrate on my movie career. There was a time when my movies weren't doing that well. I had a hard time really finding my groove and finding what I felt like the audience really wanted to see from me. So I was making these movies and to use like a baseball analogy I was hitting like singles and doubles, maybe, and at that point I was like 'man, what the fuck do I do?' I felt like I had achieved everything in wrestling, in the WWE that I wanted to achieve. ... I was happy to quietly walk away. ... There was a time there where I thought 'man, I've achieved everything I wanted to achieve in WWE, my movie career is floundering a little bit, what do I do?' I was still relatively young, I think I was 34. I thought, 'oh, well, maybe UFC. Maybe I should do something like that.' Then I thought I respect the sport of mixed martial arts so much. In my head, I felt like it was at least a two-year process for me to even get in the Octagon, let alone the UFC. I wasn't quite too sure what to do or what kind of people to put around me at that time, so the idea kind of fizzled out and I continued to stay on the path of movie making. Still a big fan and love the sport but at one time I did consider it."
The UFC hadn’t yet exploded in popularity, and the talent pool wasn’t as deep. Perhaps he would have had a shot at success like Brock Lesnar would have many years later?
Sadly, we’ll never know.