This morning the MMA community awakes to learn that the oldest sport in the world has been cut from the 2020 Olympic Games.
In the modern era, wrestling has been a part of the Olympics since 1896, but anyone with a modicum of sports knowledge understands that wrestling as a sport may be the single oldest competition in human history predating running as something done for a reason other than hunting or not being hunted.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) cut wrestling in order to keep the pentathlon which is ironic because in the ancient age of the pentathlon (meaning five events) WRESTLING was the final event in the competition.
Today the pentathlon is a mash-up of track and field events and has long been the sport on the bubble for relevancy in the Olympic family portrait. Instead it is wrestling that is on the cutting room floor and while it isn’t a “final” decision as wrestling can petition in September to be back in – for now it is the single greatest error in the IOC’s sordid history.
In my opnion despite the egregious error there is an upside for the MMA community. The upside is that we will see a flood of amazing wrestlers coming into the sport since the UFC is now the highest honor after college for an amateur wrestler to strive for.
Prior to this decision you would see men like Daniel Cormier, Randy Couture, Dan Henderson, Rulon Gardner, Matt Lindland, or Ben Askren make a stop on the Olympic train before heading into MMA. Because prior to the dawn of the UFC in the Zuffa era, a wrestling star after college or the Olympics could only hope to coach in order to stay in the sport – now they can move to an different sport entirely and thrive.
So perhaps this move will usher in more guys like welterweight contender Johnny Hendricks, Josh Koscheck, Mark Munoz, Chael Sonnen, or Cole Konrad who enter the sport out of college instead of trying to make the Olympic team and in that aspect the sport will win and the Olympics will lose.
You need look no further than the PPV that is coming up next week to see that the Olympics was but a stepping stone for Ronda Rousey who while not a wrestler, certainly made her mark in the Olympics before creating a tsunami in MMA.
Make no mistake; this is a terrible decision for the Olympics and for wrestling as a sport. But for MMA and perhaps the UFC specifically, this could be the answer for where all those new fighters for all these new events are going to come from down the road. Your thoughts?