The Olympics begin this week in Brazil. Thousands of atheltes from hundreds of countries participating in 42 different sports, including golf and rugby sevens for the first time in the Games.
What won’t be there is MMA, at least as most know it. There will be combative disciplines represented : Boxing, Wrestling, Taekwando and Judo. So, the argument could be made that mixed martial arts are in the Olympics. At least it’s the most reasonable one since there is no hint of discussion, not even a breath of support universally for MMA as its fan base knows it.
The only sports with a shot of being reinstated in 2020 are baseball, softball, and karate, yet another MMA discipline.
When it was announced Rio would be the host country there was excitement on several fronts that given the Brazilian impact on the sport, MMA had a chance, possibly as an exhibition sport if nothing else.
The caveat always comes down to two things: 1) The rough and tough nature of the sport makes it close to impossible to handle the requirements of a two week rigorous tournament.
2) There might not be enough countries who participate in the sport on a regular basis. At first it seems incredible given the world growth of the sport, but baseball experienced as much, or as little in this case, to sustain qualifying as a sport. Plus the disciplines again, wrestling and boxing in particular often provide a base for future MMA fighters though not necessarily involved in total MMA.
While the world watches there certainly is no quarrel not being in the Olympics has stymied the popularity of MMA, witness the $4 billion price tag for the UFC. The sport doesn’t need the Games and their top stars likely would decline taking part in a grueling tourney format at this stage of their careers. The ardent fan base wouldn’t get the experience they expect.
However MMA and its fans have already grabbed the medal with the legalization in New York. That far more than Olympic acceptance is exactly what a professional sport needed for big picture getting huge. The UFC will soon at last be in the iconic Madison Square Garden to a packed house and no doubt a gigantic PPV audience for the historical significance.
The World Series of Fighting will play in the MSG Theater on New Year’s Eve on the NBC network, potentially bringing one of the most watched MMA events on free TV.
New York has given MMA gold.
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