Olympic MMA: Why it must happen for the sport
There is no question that mixed martial arts has a place in the Olympics.
From the fact that the sport is a decendent of Pankration, a martial art introduced to the Greek Olympic Games in 648 BC, to the presence of MMA elements judo, wrestling, boxing, and tae kwon do in the current Olympics, the truth is that the case for the inclusion of MMA moving forward is pretty easily made.
There are going to be hurdles to clear along the way though.
First and foremost, the perception of the sport is going to hamper its inclusion. While adopting the standard rules used for amateur MMA would elimate some of the more brutal, dangerous elements from the competition, we’re still battling against archaic views about the sport both in some regions.
Though it has certainly changed a great deal from the early 1990s, convincing those who still harbor uneducated opinions about MMA that it has a place in future Olympiads will still be a challenge.
Secondly, who will participate?
In a perfect world, we’d have the best fighters from around the world competing for their country in an MMA World Cup-type tournament every four years, but is that a reasonable expectation?
Are UFC champions like Georges St-Pierre and Anderson Silva going to eschew a trip into the Octagon and the pay day that goes along with it to wear the Brazilian or Canadian flag on their shorts in the quest for gold?
I’d like to think they would, as national pride is evident in the sport now, and the opportunity to represent their countries on the biggest sporting stage in the world should compel the sport’s elite to press pause on their professional careers to pursue their Olympic dreams.
Additionally, I can’t see organizations like the UFC standing in the way of their champions and athletes taking part either.
Dana White has been vocal about his belief that MMA has a place in the Olympic Games, and so I would assume that the UFC President would give his blessing for UFC fighters to be involved.
If it’s not major stars like St-Pierre, Jon Jones, and Jose Aldo taking part, the Olympics could be a phenomenal opportunity to cultivate new stars from either the amateur ranks or further down on the divisional depth charts.
We’ve seen in the past how boxers with Olympic experience are able to turn that into incredible stardom and success in the ring, so it could certainly be comparable with MMA.
I do think the inclusion of established fighters would bolster the chances of MMA getting into the Games and being successful.
Bringing in big name athletes who can make the sport a “must-see” event every year would certainly be a check in the plus column for the sport.
While serious fans are still going to pay attention, seeing recognizable names always brings more eyes to the television. Additionally, the Olympics should be the best competing against the best.
Though I do believe it will be more challenging to clear these hurdles than some people estimate, I think we’re not too far away from seeing MMA in the Olympics. It is becoming a truly global sport, with countless countries represented on the rosters of the biggest organizations in the business, and new nations investing in the sport every year.
Not only would the inclusion of MMA in the Olympics be a positive step for the Games, it will be a moment of recognition for the sport as well. Though we may not put as much focus on the Olympics today as we did in previous generations, being accepted as an official Olympic event still provides a certain credibility, and a jolt in recognition amongst those who don’t usually follow the sport.
With its tremendous growth around the globe over the last decade, the time has come for MMA to be included in the showcase of the greatest sports and athletes in the world.
Will it happen? I’m not sure, but I’m hopeful.
What do you think: will MMA be an Olympic sport in the future? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.
Follow The Roar’s UFC Expert E. Spencer Kyte on Twitter (@spencerkyte).