Some MMA fans might have heard of Jeff Blatnick because of his duties as a commentator in the early days of the UFC.
However, the Olympic gold medalist wrestler did far more for the sport than just talk into a headset and microphone. MMA fans need to know this.
Bleacher Report's own Jonathan Snowden expressed Blatnick's importance eloquently, saying the following:
Before Blatnick, only Japanese wrestling fans were familiar with "MMA." In the rest of the world, for years, we all called cage fighting "no holds barred" or, more often than not, NHB. It was the accepted nomenclature, written in stone. Until Jeff Blatnick made it his mission to change it.
No holds barred, he thought, presented the wrong image, drudging up primitive combat between thugs in a bar. Street fighting. The past. With cable systems and states banning the UFC right and left, that old imagery had to go.
Blatnick was a tireless advocate for MMA with regulators and television executives all over the country. His 1984 gold medal brought with the sport no small amount of credibility. He provided the rest, speaking honestly and passionately about a sport he had come to love. The UFC had, despite their own best misinformation campaign to make the sport seem more edgy, had always had rules. Now they needed those rules to carry the blessing of state athletic commissions.
Blatnick indeed helped the sport. He's more than what fans know him as. Of course, Blatnick's tireless efforts don't fit in the Zuffa narrative of Zuffa adding the rules to a brutal bloodsport, so what Blatnick did is forgotten by too many people.