Boxing, judo, taekwondo, and wrestling are the four Olympic fighting styles that also contribute to the sport of Mixed Martial Arts, and its most popular league, the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Now the Olympic landscape is about to mix things up.
A sport that, in its infancy wasn’t even allowed on Pay-Per-View, MMA may now get an international audience. Former UFC champion, Randy Couture first told TMZ Sports, “I think there’s 34 or 39 countries that have signed petitions”.
TMZ Sports reported that a likely form to be used in Olympic competition is the style of Pankration, the only rules were no biting or eye-gouging. With some alterations, this idea may be a real possibility. Most importantly, it’s hard to ignore the cry of almost 40 nations.
“Mixed martial arts, under the global leadership of UFC and us really inspiring and pushing the envelope, I think has a great chance to become an Olympic sport because it is participated now by countries literally all over the world,” said Mark Fischer, UFC’s managing director of Asia Pacific in a related article.
If the sport of MMA is put on an olympic platform, great, but the sports most popular brand has come back from near-extinction to become one of the fastest growing sports in the world.
“Do we need it? No, we are going to survive and continue to grow,” Fischer said. “Would it help to put us on that next level of interest and really capture everybody’s imagination and understanding? I think it would help tremendously. But we are talking about theoreticals.”
There is also the fact that the UFC as a league would need to address, since it bought and closed down both Pride FC and Strikeforce as well as bringing in the lighter weight class from its sister promotion World Extreme Cagefighting, the UFC now has virtually all of the world’s fighters. Is the potential for injury and losing fighters for events worth the risk?
Even as the UFC enters its 21st year in existence, the question can still be asked, is MMA too brutal for the Olympics? The sport is actually more safe than it looks, gloves weigh no more than six ounces in any weight class unless approved by a state athletic commission.
Boxing matches can go up to 12 rounds while MMA on the other hand, under the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial arts, non-title fights are only up to three rounds, and championship bouts go no more than five rounds.
Most importantly, martial arts fights allow for different ways to win, while boxing focuses on punches. According to a 2006 Johns Hopkins study published in the New York Times, only 28 percent of MMA fights end via a blow to the head.
Even after 21 years of UFC action, the biggest MMA presence in the U.S., it still all comes down to public perception. Will MMA in any form be a part of the Olympics? For now, fans can dream can’t we?