Wrestling snatched victory from the jaws of defeat on Sunday morning.
With a majority 49 votes out of 95 cast by the International Olympic Committee, wrestling was saved. Baseball, softball and squash were eliminated as sports in the Olympic Games. Wrestling now continues after being on the brink of elimination. It won the one remaining spot for the 2020 Games.
The IOC announced the totals after a secret ballot on Sunday in Buenos Aries.
"Our fight doesn't stop here," FILA President Nenad Lalovic said at a news conference following the announcement. "We have to improve our sport in order to become a core sport. Wrestling has become a modernized sport ready to compete with other sports. We succeeded to (convince) the IOC members that our improved sport will support the Olympic movement.
"Wrestling is not a new sport, but the wrestling we're presenting now is a new wrestling. What we tried to do is update our sport to make it more spectacular, more watchable and the rules (more) understandable. That's the only way to fulfill wrestling's hopes – and that's the goal of every sport."
Wrestling was dropped from the list of core sports by the IOC in February, and immediately a campaign started in the wrestling community, which includes hundreds of MMA fighters – including elite-level stars like Daniel Cormier, Dan Henderson, Ben Askren and Josh Koscheck.
The wrestling community started a heavy social media effort, and the MMA world followed suit with support from promotions like the UFC and Bellator. "Save Olympic Wrestling" became an instant mantra from the time of the IOC's initial announcement in February that the sport would have to fight for one remaining spot in the 2020 games, which will be in Tokyo.
In late May, though, the sport cleared a major hurdle when the IOC approved it, along with a combined baseball/softball effort and squash, as the finalists competing for the one remaining spot. Sports eliminated from a chance at the 2020 games at that vote in Russia included wushu, karate, roller sports, sport climbing and wakeboarding.
Now, with wrestling saved – which came with an instant eruption of cheers from the USA Wrestling members in attendance – the sport's supporters in the MMA community can rest easy. Their efforts may have played a big role in the sport getting the votes it needed to survive.
Wrestling has been a part of every modern Olympic Games except in 1900.