On February 12 of this year, the International Olympic Committee decided to drop the sport of wrestling from the 2020 Summer Olympics. This came as a shock to many in the international community, considering that wrestling is an Olympic tradition dating back to the first modern Olympic Games at Athens in 1896, and also dating back to the Ancient Greek Olympics.
The decision has caused much controversy and outrage among those in both the wrestling community, and those in the sports community in general. One of the main causes of outrage is the fact that the IOC never gave a legitimate reason as to why they were dropping the longtime Olympic staple. Only one answer really seemed to pop up which was,”It isn’t about what’s wrong with wrestling but what’s right about the ‘core’ 25 sports.”
It has certainly been a disturbing turn of events and has caused outrage among those in the MMA community as well, especially former Olympians such as Dan Henderson, who since hearing about it has been wearing the website for saving Olympic wrestling on his shorts. Another thing that is disturbing are the implications it may have towards the eventually inclusion of MMA in the Olympics.
It isn’t very well known, but MMA was present in the Ancient Greek Olympics under the name of Pankration. It has been a recent goal of leaders in the MMA community to eventually get MMA inclusion into modern Olympic games in some form, including UFC President Dana White. Therein leads to part of the controversy in this whole situation.
Initially when the news came out, Dana White took more of an accepting stance on the situation and also made some remarks that were misunderstood by some. One of those people was Tommy Rowlands, who has been leading the charge for the American effort to save the Olympic sport.
One of the factors that caused Dana White to change gears was a twitter war between Rowlands and White about the misunderstanding. Once the misunderstanding was cleared up, Dana White was on board to make an effort to save not just Olympic wrestling, but wrestling in general as in recent years, American wrestling has suffered mainly under the name of title IX. It was certainly a welcome support but by no means does that mean the fight is over.
The final decision will be made this coming Saturday at the 125th IOC Session taking place in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In addition to deciding the fate of whether wrestling or the finalist baseball/softball (whose IOC federation president Riccardo Fraccari actually supports wrestling’s return to the Olympics) and squash, it will also decide whether the Olympics will take place in Madrid, Spain; Istanbul, Turkey (where wrestling is the national sport), or Tokyo, Japan (where wrestling has a strong following considering their women’s wrestling is the dominant powerhouse).
The whole situation has actually brought about some positive change and facts though. The first of which is that FILA (wrestling’s IOC federation) made some immediate rule changes, voted in a new president, and their board of directors now includes many former athletes (including women).
Another positive result is that the IOC’s of many countries where wrestling is dominant including the United States, Russia (their President Vladimir Putin has been vocal about it), and Iran (the countries medal count is mostly in wrestling) just to name a few. A third positive fact that is in favor of wrestling is that aside from running, wrestling is probably one of the most international sports in the modern Olympic games.
To close out, it is crucial for all in the MMA and wrestling communities to support not just Olympic wrestling, but wrestling in general. Women’s wrestling made an entrance into the Olympics in the 2004 Athens Games (UFC fighter Sara McMann was the first silver medalist for the US in those games), and is on the rise at colleges and high schools nationwide, bringing about an answer to the title IX reasons to eliminate wrestling.
Wrestling has brought so many talented athletes into MMA such as current UFC Champions Cain Velasquez, Jon Jones, Chris Weidman, Demetrious Johnson, UFC Hall of Famers Dan Severn, Randy Couture, Mark Coleman, Chuck Liddell, Matt Hughes, Tito Ortiz, current Bellator Champions Ben Askren, Michael Chandler, and Pat Curran, just to name a few.
Wrestling is a crucial part of the Olympic tradition and to lose it is to lose a part of our world heritage and will also be crucial for a future Olympic inclusion for MMA. We as not just an MMA community, but a fighting community as well, need to make our stand here and now for if we don’t, we don’t just lose a part of the Olympics, we lose a part of MMA.
The following links are to some of the various web pages to support saving Olympic wrestling:
Write to these websites, spread the word to family and friends, pray, do what you feel led to do to SAVE OLYMPIC WRESTLING!