When the International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted in February to cut wrestling from the Olympic Games starting in 2020, the decision sent shock waves not only through the wrestling community, but throughout the sports world; perhaps none more so than the mixed martial arts community.
Wrestling is a core component to mixed martial arts. Several Olympic wrestlers have made their way into MMA, including Daniel Cormier, Matt Lindland, Dan Henderson, Randy Couture, Sarah McMann, among others. 2000 Olympic Games gold medalist Rulon Gardner has one professional MMA bout on his resume as well.
“This is a process of renewing and renovating the program for the Olympics,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams said at the time the decision was made. “In the view of the executive board, this was the best program for the Olympic Games in 2020. It’s not a case of what’s wrong with wrestling, it is what’s right with the 25 core sports.”
Wrestling is on a short-list of eight sports that can argue its case for inclusion in the Games, so there’s still hope for wrestling in the Olympics. The UFC is joining the fight to save wrestling. The other sports positioning for inclusion are baseball/softball, karate, roller sports, sport climbing, squash, wakeboarding and wushu.
“I’ve met with a lot of top guys in wrestling. I met with them last Tuesday, and the UFC is joining the fight to help save Olympic wrestling,” said UFC president Dana White on Tuesday.
“Not just Olympic wrestling. Colleges are dropping wrestling right now. High schools have been dropping wrestling for a long time. Myself, I have personally funded tons of wrestling programs and the UFC has funded tons of wrestling programs for high school kids,” said White.
“I can’t be the guy to try and run out and save wrestling,” said White during the UFC on Fuel TV 7 press conference on Feb. 13.
One man can’t save wrestling, but a collective effort potentially can.
“It’s in the discussion phase. These guys are going out and fighting the fight. I think what I can do, and not just me and the UFC, but I think other companies like Bellator, too – Viacom owns Bellator, and I think Viacom would be probably interested in fighting the fight too,” said White on Tuesday’s UFC on Fox 7 media conference call.
Ultimately wrestling’s Olympic future rests with the IOC, but there’s still time to convince them that they made a mistake, and still time to get the oldest sport in the world back in the 2020 Games.