MMA Will Never Be an Olympic Sport, so Please Stop Talking About It
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Look, I understand that the Olympics makes the heart grow fonder for the spirit of competition and national pride and all of that good stuff. It happens every time the Games come around. Back in the days of my youth, I wanted to strap on some giant skis and be a long-jumper. That all changed the very moment I first laid my eyes on a real-life long-jump ramp, but the spirit was there all the same.
And so I understand the constantly-voiced desire to see mixed martial arts become an officially-sanctioned aspect of the Olympics. I mean, who wouldn't love to see nations compete against each other for the right to call themselves the best fighting country in the world? That's the thing that has driven gargantuan ratings for NBC, the official not-quite-live home for the event here in the United States.
What, you think people tuned in because they're suddenly vested in finding out who the best gymnast or sprinter in the world is? Don't be ridiculous. They're glued to that new television set in the living room because they're patriotic as hell—at least once every couple of years—and because they don't want to be left out when the chatter around the water cooler the next morning invariably turns to the previous day's glorious rowing scene on the Thames.
MMA fans want to see their sport on the world's biggest stage. I can't blame them. When one of the featured events of the last few television broadcasts was a bunch of people flopping around on a trampoline, it's tough not to imagine mixed martial arts as a featured event. And hey, the Olympics already have boxing, wrestling and judo, so why not combine them all together and save time? Everybody wins. Right?
Well, not really. And there's a good reason that MMA will never, ever be a sanctioned athletic event in any Olympic games: because it's just too violent.
Imagine, if you will, doing the Ultimate Fighter tournament with sixteen dudes. This is just a theoretical tournament, by the way. And imagine that this tournament, instead of taking place during television tapings that lasts six or seven weeks, must instead take place over the course or two or three days.
That, in a nutshell, is why it will never work as an Olympic sport. The likeliness of completing any kind of tournament as originally conceived is incredibly low. Boxing is also an inherently violent sport, but Olympic boxing is a watered-down and greatly different sport than the one you throw down $70 on from time to time. Headgear and rule changes make it more of a point-fighting sport, which is mostly different from boxing altogether.
Do you want to see MMA take the same route? A bunch of you could barely contain your grief when Carlos Condit beat Nick Diaz using the same kind of style, so I cannot imagine the outcry we'd hear over the Olympics taking the same route as a whole. And make no mistake about it: if mixed martial arts made it to the Olympics (which it won't), it would be a highly-bastardized and much safer product than you see on television. Chances are you'd probably hate it.
But none of this matters, because it's never going to become a sanctioned sport. MMA fans should instead focus their efforts on getting Brazilian jiu-jitsu in front of the people who can help make the sport an Olympic reality. Or they should just watch wrestling, or judo, and see if they can pick out some of the people who might someday become future stars in MMA.
But please, just stop talking about MMA becoming an Olympic sport.
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