Advocacy for Mixed Martial Arts at the Olympics – The Rocky Mountain Collegian

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College student | SPC Christopher T. Grammer

UFC fighter Yoshiyuki Yoshida punches his opponent Josh Koscheck during the UFC Fight for the Troops event held at the Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville, North Carolina on December 17, 2008. Koscheck won the match by eliminating Yoshida in the first round. (US Army photo by Spc. Christopher Grammer, 50th Public Affairs Detachment via Wikimedia Commons)

The Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics saw the addition of several new sports, including softball, baseball, skateboarding, sport climbing, surfing and karate. Despite the inclusion of these new events, one of the biggest the most popular sports remains unrecognized by the International Olympic Committee: mixed martial arts.

Since its first official fight 28 years ago in Denver, the sport of MMA has gone from niche entertainment to a multibillionaire industry. This growth has been led by the world’s premier fighting organization: The Ultimate Fighting Championship, a company estimated to value around $10 billion.

The UFC currently has a roster that includes fighters over 60 countries. In the 12 different weight classes (eight men, four women), there are three American champions (one injured) and nine who call Russia, Cameroon, Nigeria, Brazil, Australia or Kyrgyzstan home.

This large and diverse list is a testament to the global appeal of the sport, and these numbers only reflect the UFC and none of the others. major promotions. In addition to this, several martial arts are also already represented in the Olympics.

“They have judo, which uses submissions and chokeholds,” UFC president Dana White said. mentioned. “They have boxing, which you can punch in the body and in the head. They have taekwondo, where you can use kicks and punches. … Everything we do is already in Olympic sports, so it makes sense.

However, MMA faces unique obstacles when it comes to being officially recognized by the IOC. There is currently five main factors (each with different criteria) that determine whether a sport is eligible for inclusion in the Olympics. These factors are listed as Olympic proposition, added value to the Olympic movement, institutional issues, popularity and business model.

The Olympic proposal refers to the logistics of the sport, including the competition format, number of events, participation of top athletes and venues. The added value to the Olympic movement refers to the image of sport and the way it defends the seven values: friendship, excellence, respect, courage, determination, inspiration and equality.

Institutional issues involve criteria regarding the credibility or years of existence of the sport, gender equality and the various commissions that govern the sport. The popularity and business model are pretty self-explanatory.

With these criteria in mind, it seems that the biggest obstacles to MMA becoming an Olympic sport are the Olympic proposition and adding value to the Olympics. The violent nature of MMA calls into question how the sport could uphold the Olympic values. However, there are multiple ways to both ensure athlete safety and limit violence, while maintaining a high level of competition.

On the one hand, the set of rules used in Olympic boxing provides a solid blueprint for Olympic MMA to follow. Olympic boxing, until the 2016 Games, required all fighters to wear headgear (men no longer do). He also adheres to a three-turn time limit, three minutes per turn. This differs from professional boxing, which requires fighters to fight without headgear and for more than twelve rounds.

To become Olympic, MMA would have to move away from the normal three-round, five-minute fighting style used by the UFC and most major promotions. Whether it’s a single five-minute round or two two-minute rounds, a shorter contest will help ensure fighters can safely compete multiple times. Instilling the required headgear, along with wider gloves and shin guards, would also reduce violence.

MMA remains unique as a sport in that often fighters receive medical suspensions for months after competition. This is to ensure that any possible medical issues can be properly addressed. For this reason, the logistics surrounding a competition in which athletes compete in multiple competitions over a short period of time pose a challenge to the Olympic proposal.

One solution here would be to place limits on fighters on the number of times they can compete in a single Olympics. Countries would ideally have multiple fighters on their roster for each weight class, the idea being that it would be a rotating cast of fighters. If fighters were only allowed to compete in one or two matches every four years, you could limit some of the most serious risks they face.

On the institutional level, MMA easily meets these criteria. The UFC and other major organizations, including Bellator MMA and ONE Championship, apply these criteria when working with various national and international athletic commissions to ensure their events are safe and sanctionable.

When it comes to popularity and business model, all the CIO needs to do is involve White in his processes, as he is more than capable of sustaining success. According to White, the UFC is coming out of its the most successful since the start of the year, and with international superstars like Conor McGregor, Khabib Nurmagomedov and Israel Adesanya, MMA as a whole has never been more popular.

Nurmagomedov mentioned his involvement in bringing MMA to the Olympics. He plans to do everything he can to legitimize the sport in the eyes of the IOC.

“The inclusion of MMA in the Olympics is one of my biggest tasks for the next two years,” Nurmagomedov said. told ESPN. “They don’t want a lot of blood. … But in terms of sponsorships, TV ratings, viewership, MMA has it, and if it makes it to the Olympics, it’ll be on par with athletics and soccer in terms of interest. .

Given the unpredictable and volatile nature of MMA, it’s hard not to imagine it immediately being one of the most entertaining Olympic events. The potential growth of mixed martial arts is still enormous, and continuing to exclude them from the Olympics does a disservice to sports fans everywhere.

Contact Jeremiah Janzen at [email protected] or on Twitter @Jeremie Janzen.

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