UFC Joining the Fight to Save Wrestling in the Olympics
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It was just two months ago that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to drop wrestling from the games starting in 2020.
Since that time, a huge list of former Olympic competitors, trainers and fans have spoken up to try and save the sport when the IOC holds a final vote later this year for one more sport to be added or re-added to the 2020 games.
Back in February when the decision was first made to drop wrestling from the Olympics, UFC President Dana White voiced his opinion that while the sport has become an integral part of mixed martial arts, he wasn't sure there was anything left that he could do to help save it from the chopping block.
"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."
In the months since that statement, the support system to try and save wrestling in the Olympics has only increased. Several notable UFC fighters and former wrestlers such as Daniel Cormier and Sara McMann have joined the cause as well.
Now just two months later after sounding like he was ready to let the wrestling ship sink, White has changed course and says that the UFC will join the fight to save the sport in the Olympics.
"When we heard that it was being yanked from the Olympics, that's what I said. I said it needs to be more fan-friendly, it needs to be more exciting. I've met with a lot of the top guys in wrestling. Actually I met with them last Tuesday, and yeah, the UFC is joining the fight to help save Olympic wrestling," White revealed during a UFC media conference call.
"Not just Olympic wrestling, but colleges are dropping wrestling now. High schools have been dropping wrestling for a long time. I've personally funded tons of wrestling programs, and the UFC has funded tons of wrestling programs for high school kids."
To what extent the UFC will play a role is unknown at this time, but financial support will likely be the first step in the process. Beyond that, the UFC's reach in terms of global recognition, advertising and social networking can only help further the cause of making sure wrestling remains in the Olympic Games well beyond 2020.
White also spoke up, saying he hopes other organizations like Bellator get involved to help the wrestling community in their time of need.
"It's in the discussion phase. These guys are going out and fighting the fight, and whatever they need from me and what I think I could do, and not just me and the UFC, but other companies like Bellator too (could help)," White said. "Viacom owns Bellator, and I think Viacom would be interested in helping fight the fight too."
Bellator along with former UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture have voiced their support for the wrestling community, and it appears they will also step up and help in some way as the sport continues the fight to remain in the Olympic Games.
Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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