It’s an obvious fact that earning the silver medal was no easy feat to accomplish when Sara McMann won it at the 2004 Olympics for freestyle wrestling. The success McMann experienced at the Athens Games has been similar to her mixed martial arts efforts in the sense that she’s widely considered one of the best in the world.
But when she became an MMA fighter, McMann wouldn’t rely on her Olympic background to become successful in her new sport. Sometimes, she said, Olympians can’t do as well in other sports as they did at the Games.
“I don’t know if it was necessarily my Olympic success that has [played into my MMA success],” McMann recently told MMAWeekly.com. “I think you can take other Olympians or Olympic medalists and sometimes that doesn’t translate into success in another sport. So I think part of it is each individual, and that’s why when I began MMA I said, ‘Maybe I’ll like this and maybe I’ll take to it … but maybe it won’t.'”
Luckily for her, McMann showed that she was pretty good at being a mixed martial artist. She’s proven just how capable she is by winning the first seven fights of her career, keeping an undefeated record with notable wins over fighters like Shayna Baszler and most recently Sheila Gaff.
At some point during that run, McMann used it as a sort of feeling-out process to find out if fighting in a cage was for her.
“I kind of gave myself a little bit of time to see if I don’t like this,” she said, adding that if she didn’t take to it, she would be okay with just having her wrestling career to look back on.
McMann, she came to find out, took to it very well and now she’s earned a shot at the UFC women’s bantamweight belt against titleholder Ronda Rousey, another former Olympian, in the main event at UFC 170.
The fact that both Rousey and her challenger share the Olympic background has made the 135-pound champ say she anticipates McMann being the toughest opponent she’s had to date. Like the 2004 games, the world will watch as McMann battles another Olympic athlete for gold, and all the pressure in the world will lay on her shoulders this Saturday when the two meet in Las Vegas.
But no matter the pressure she feels as she prepares to fight for her first MMA world title, McMann is confident she’ll carry out her task with no worries. If anything her Olympic experience has taught her, it’s that she can deal with big opportunities.
“By the time that I had competed in my first world championships or had competed in the Olympics, I had never done that before,” she said. “So really it just revealed to me that when it is the big pressure situation … I do what I’ve been trained to do.
“Whenever the pressure comes on, I show up.”
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