Choosing between wrestling, baseball/softball, and squash, the International Olympic Committee voted at a meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Sunday to reinstate wrestling as an Olympic sport.
Wrestling received 49 votes, while a combined baseball/softball bid got 24 and squash 22, according to the Associated Press.
The move comes seven months after wrestling – the oldest modern day Olympic sport – had initially been removed from the Olympics.
The wrestling world, with significant support from the mixed martial arts world, immediately took action, initiating campaigns to bolster support. Wrestling also started borrowing promotional tactics from MMA, trying to elevate the sports profile and increase appeal to the more casual sports fan.
“With this vote, you have shown that the steps we have taken to improve our sport have made a difference,” FILA president Nenad Lalovic said at a news conference following the vote. “I assure each of you that our modernization will not stop now. We will continue to strive to be the best partner to the Olympic movement that we can be.
“Today is the most important day in the 2,000-year history of our sport,” he continued. “We feel the weight of that history. Remaining on the Olympic program is crucial to wrestling’s survival.”
Mixed martial arts has a particular interest in the continued success of wrestling. Many of MMA’s top competitors emerged from the world of Olympic wrestling.
Former UFC champions Matt Lindland and Randy Couture are both former Olympic wrestlers, as is former Pride champion Dan Henderson. Bellator champion Ben Askren is a former Olympian. Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix champion Daniel Cormier was an Olympic wrestler. Additional top wrestlers continue to enter the cage.
The association between MMA and wrestling is symbiotic. While wrestling provides some top talent to the world of MMA, MMA allows wrestlers an arena to continue their competitive endeavors and earn a living doing so.
Sunday was a great day for Olympic wrestling, and so, also a great day for mixed martial arts.