Gogoplata for Gold: Olympic MMA in Rio 2016
With all the attention this last week given to who will host the 2016 Olympics, which was won by the Brazilian city of Rio De Janeiro, one of my friends asked me what I thought about MMA making its debut at the the Games.
There are several good points on both sides of the argument. Although I personally don't see it happening, it is a topic that should make for some great debates.
One of the best reasons in favor of adding MMA is it's growing popularity. Even though the Olympics bring out nationalism and patriotism amongst all countries across the world, the overall importance of the Games has been waning over the years.
Sure there are some sports that garner more attention, such as basketball, soccer, gymnastics, swimming, track and field, and volleyball.
However, bringing in the demographic that drives MMA cannot hurt. Bringing in viewers that may stay to watch other sports can only help the viewership.
There are also other combat sports already a part of the Olympics. Boxing, wrestling, fencing, and Taekwondo are all currently being contested.
Karate was brought up as a possible addition but did not receive enough votes. Since most of these, except for fencing, are part of Mixed Martial Arts, it makes sense that adding MMA would be a natural progression.
With the growth of Mixed Martial Arts not only in the United States, but worldwide, this is becoming more of a global force.
From organizations like Dream and Sengoku to Strikeforce and the UFC, there are fighters from six different continents represented.
With that kind of widespread participation, it only makes sense to put this sport on the type of stage that only the Olympics can provide.
Let us not forget that the Olympics are being held in Brazil. Even the casual fan can tell you that submission specialists rely on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Royce Gracie introduced the MMA world to this art all the way back at the first UFC event.
With as heavily ingrained in the sport as BJJ is, what better place than Rio to add the sport that highlights it on a fight to fight basis.
With all that being said, there are just as many reasons why the Olympics will not consider adding MMA anytime soon. The first of which is the divide on whether MMA should be a legitimate sport or not.
There are still athletic commissions in the US alone that will still not sanction it as a sport.
Whether it is due to a fundamental lack of understanding of the evolution of MMA or just blind hatred of what some deem as "senseless brutality", there is not a clear consensus on the feelings towards legalization in this country let alone the world.
To give this argument against MMA some support, all one has to do is look at another sport that has tried for years to become an Olympic sport, bowling. One of the biggest knocks against adding bowling was the lack of a single governing body.
Until 2005, bowling in the US was overseen by the American Bowling Congress, the Women's International Bowling Congress, the Young American Bowling Alliance, and USA Bowling.
Since there were four different groups responsible for the rules and regulations in America alone, there could be no clear choice on who would submit the guidelines for running an Olympic event.
On top of that, we haven't even mentioned ruling bodies from all the other nations worldwide.
This could be a similar hurdle for MMA. Since different states have different rules, as well as regulatory variations country by country, who will set the standard. There are a lot of key rules that would have to be addressed.
Will it be contested in a ring or a cage, are elbows on the ground legal or illegal, what is the rule about attacking a downed opponent's head? And we haven't even brought up weight classes.
Another knock is the general newness of the sport. While the UFC has grown exponentially over the years, MMA in general has not had the needed time to grow on an international scale in terms of its amateur ranks.
Since I cannot see any established organization, like the ones previously mentioned, letting their best fighters and champions participate and possibly get hurt or embarrassed by representatives of rival companies, the Olympians would need to be made up of non-professionals.
While countries like the US, Japan, possibly Canada, and a very select few European and Asian countries may have some sort of amateur programs, there does not seem to be the global support needed to adequately supply this type of an event.
As nice as it would be to hear an announcer the caliber of Bob Costas say, "And later tonight, we will talk with the young man who won his gold medal buy way of a D'Arce Choke," it is not going to happen anytime soon.
With more mainstream sports like softball and golf still on the outside looking in, MMA cannot even get in on the conversation.
I am not even sure that a BJ Penn rear naked choke, Anderson Silva's knee strikes, or some Georges St. Pierre ground and pound could make the IOC submit to this idea.
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