Dana White: Wrestling's Demise Could Bring MMA to the Olympics
The wrestling community has been on the ropes ever since Tuesday's decision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to remove the sport from the games starting in 2020.
Just about every wrestler who has ever competed or aspired to compete in the Olympics has voiced their disapproval about their sport being shafted by the committee's vote, which removed one of the original Olympic competitions from the games.
Several high-profile mixed martial artists have also stepped up to support wrestling in its hour of need after they either competed and won medals in the Olympics or had a dream as a teenager to make it to the games one day.
One common theme that's been running ever since the IOC put wrestling on the chopping block was that the sport needed a savior—a corporate sponsor, a lobbyist or somebody with extreme influence to step in on behalf of wrestling the way that the modern pentathlon did when the IOC was making their final decision to save that sport while cutting wrestling.
UFC president Dana White has been one of the major people mentioned since his promotion has helped transform some of wrestling's best into some of the premier mixed martial artists in the world.
Unfortunately, White and the UFC believe that wrestling has a bigger problem than needing him to fund a grappling coup d'etat with the International Olympic Committee.
"I've been battling this problem for years now," White said when speaking to reporters following the UFC on Fuel 7 press conference. "Colleges are dropping it, high schools are dropping wrestling. The problem with wrestling is it's an awesome base for fighting, for mixed martial arts, and everything for what it does. I've never wrestled, but what I hear it does to guys who wrestle, it changes people's lives and it's just grueling hard work and dedication. All the things that go in with being a wrestler.
"The problem is nobody wants to watch it. Any sport especially these days, it's about selling tickets, and eyeballs, and viewers and all these other things."
One of the key issues brought up by the IOC when determining whether or not to cut wrestling was the viewership they received in the last Olympic games in 2012. The peak viewers for the show maxed out at 58.5 million while wrestling programming as a whole averaged 23 million viewers worldwide.
White says wrestling's problems could actually be a benefit to mixed martial arts eventually finding a home in the Olympics.
"What this could be is the evolution of mixed martial arts becoming an Olympic sport," White said. "We bring spectators, eyeballs, whether it's on TV or whatever it is this sport draws, wrestling doesn't."
Regardless of MMA's inclusion or exclusion from the Olympic games, White won't be the white knight galloping in on a steed trying to stave off wrestling's demise. He says he's funded wrestling programs for years, but if the Olympics want to deliver the death blow, he can't be the one to stop it.
"I can't be the guy to try and run out and save wrestling," White stated. "You know how many wrestling programs I've funded over the last five or six years? A lot. I don't want to see wrestling go away either, it's such a big part of the sport, but something's going to happen here. It's going to evolve into mixed martial arts and MMA or something I don't know.
"I don’t think wrestling's going to go anywhere, but competitive wrestling definitely is."
Mixed martial arts definitely won't be in the Olympics for at least the next couple of sessions with the sports already chosen for the 2016 games, and the vote coming up in May to determine the final count of competitions for 2020 doesn't currently include MMA as an option. That doesn't mean wrestling couldn't be revived by then or MMA couldn't somehow find an Olympic home in 2024, but it's unknown what the future holds as of now.
Damon Martin is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report.
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