LAS VEGAS — Braun Strowman, all 6-foot-8 and 395 pounds of him, squeezed himself into an airplane seat nearly 200 times last year and circled the Earth the equivalent of more than 28 times.
The wear and tear on a professional wrestler’s body because of the breakneck, almost nonstop schedule, is unlike that of any other sport. And Strowman, who will welcome boxer Tyson Fury to the WWE when they meet at Crown Jewel on Oct. 31 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, said Fury and ex-UFC champion Cain Velasquez are about to have their eyes opened.
Velasquez, who signed a multi-year deal with the WWE and said he’s done “for now” with MMA, will face Brock Lesnar at Crown Jewel for the WWE title at King Fahd Stadium in Riyadh. Lesnar is another former UFC champion who lost his title to Velasquez at UFC 121 in 2010.
Strowman was asked following a news conference at T-Mobile Arena to announce the Saudi Arabia show what he thinks Velasquez and Fury don’t get yet about pro wrestling.
“I don’t think they’re quite understanding of what it takes and what goes on to producing this and making this happen,” Strowman said. “I wrestled 192 matches last year and flew over 700,000 miles to perform for our fans all over the entire globe. It’s a lot to train your body to be used to not sleeping and getting up and going out and fighting for 45 minutes then jumping on an airplane and going and doing it again. I admire these guys for wanting to jump into this world. I just hope they’re ready for it.”
Fury has been a lifelong wrestling fan and jumped at the opportunity to face Strowman in the high-profile show. He didn’t rule out more than one appearance in the WWE, but he has a contract to face WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder sometime next year.
The fight has been penciled in for Feb. 22, but two massive cuts that needed 47 stitches to close that he suffered during a Sept. 14 defense of his boxing lineal heavyweight title with Otto Wallin may delay that. The wounds still appeared prominent when Fury spoke with reporters. Plus, Wilder has a fight against Luis Ortiz on Nov. 23 that he must win.
Fury’s promoter Todd duBoef, the president of Top Rank, said Fury had his wounds examined by a plastic surgeon in the United Kingdom, where he lives, and was cleared to do the WWE match.
Velasquez on joining WWE: ‘I’m here to work my ass off’
Velasquez has removed himself from the UFC’s drug-testing pool and is planning to wrestle full-time, at least for the time being. For a long time, he was regarded as the greatest heavyweight in MMA history, but his body betrayed him.
His final fight was a 26-second TKO loss to Francis Ngannou on Feb. 17 in Phoenix, a bout in which Velasquez said his knee gave out. He had a slew of injuries during his MMA career that hampered him and kept him from fulfilling his enormous potential.
Paul “Triple H” Levesque, the WWE’s executive vice president of talent, live events and creative, said the company will work with Velasquez on his schedule as he develops. Levesque said Velasquez won’t necessarily keep the pace that many of his peers in the WWE’s traveling road show do, at least at first.
But Velasquez, who has been impressive in his two pro wrestling matches he has had to this point, will have to get used to fighting multiple times a week that will strain a body that has at times been fragile.
“When we get there, we’ll decide,” Velasquez said about how busy his schedule will be. “But hey man, I’m here to do it all. I’m here to work my ass off and do as much as I can. That’s how I am. I don’t think about what happens afterward; it’s all about performance.”
Fury set to earn seven figures for WWE appearance
Fury is a colorful guy who is one of the best talkers and should fit seamlessly into the WWE, where the ability to sell is nearly as important as the ability to athletically compete. Levesque said Fury’s passion for wrestling gives him a head up on it because he’s not just doing it for a check.
A source told Yahoo Sports that Fury will earn a seven-figure paycheck for his appearance in the WWE, so even if he’s not doing it for the money, he’ll have plenty of it.
Levesque noted that Fury will be able to use his appearance to help make himself bigger so that his pay-per-view with Wilder will sell more. It’s a method that Floyd Mayweather used so well when he fought Big Show in WWE at WrestleMania in 2008.
“This is one of the things that is a continuation of him becoming a household name,” Levesque said of Fury. “There’s a lot of people who know who Tyson Fury is, [but] there’s a lot of people who don’t. Whenever you have an opportunity to reach a fan base like WWE’s, if you’re Tyson Fury, that’s a massive opportunity to have a lot of people to tune into your fights.
“So even if you’re looking at it short-term with the Wilder rematch, this is a massive opportunity to get a lot of eyeballs. [People will] say, ‘Oh my God, I watched that guy when he was in the WWE. I’d like to see him fight.’ So the crossover appeal is huge. It’s the same with us. The crossover appeal is huge, and to bring in fans of Top Rank, to bring in fans who have watched Tyson Fury on ESPN and are fans of his from a boxing standpoint, and pull them over to what we do [and have them] see the level of athleticism that WWE Superstars have and the level of entertainment that they give, [it’s huge].”
Fury appeared on a WWE show on Fox last week and had an incident with Strowman. He said his eyes were opened when he did so.
He was asked if fighting Strowman could put his rematch with Wilder in jeopardy and he said with a straight face, “There’s a good chance of that.”
“People say WWE is fake, it’s this and that, but when I got here, it was a hard reality,” Fury said. “It’s the most physical, taxing sport I’ve ever been involved in. I’ve only had a few days training and this is a really physical, damaging and brutalizing sport, honestly. It’s really opened my eyes to how athletic these guys really are.”
More from Yahoo Sports: