Dan Gable: The Greatest Fighter That Never Was

Robert GardnerSenior Analyst INovember 24, 2009

It is often said that one of the best bases to have as a mixed martial artist is wresting. Wrestling, in all of its forms, is a sport that is all about leverage and control.

Many fighters who have come from a strong wrestling background have found great success. Just look across the MMA landscape today as it is littered with champion wrestlers making the transition to the sport.

The reason wrestlers have excelled in MMA is not due solely to wrestling itself. Wrestlers are successful because of the drive, determination, and work ethic that they bring with them.

If there is one man who epitomizes wrestling, drive, determination, and work ethic, it is Dan Gable.

After an undefeated prep wrestling career, the three-time Iowa state wrestling champion chose to attend Iowa State University. While at Iowa State, Gable continued his winning ways by capturing three Big Eight Championships, earning All-American honors all three years.

The only defeat that Gable suffered during his collegiate career came at the hands of Larry Owings. That loss came during the NCAA finals his senior year. That loss helped to fuel a fire inside Gable, a fire that would lead him to greatness.

While attending college and after his collegiate career Gable competed in Olympic freestyle wrestling. Gable was a six-time midlands champion and a three-time USA Freestyle National Champion. In 1971 Gable became World Champion, winning the 68kg division in Sofia, Bulgaria.

In 1972, when the Olympics invaded Munich, the goal was simple; bring home the gold. During these historic Olympics Gable would not only win the gold but he did so without surrendering a single point to his opposition.

In Gable’s final 21 Olympic qualification and Olympic matches, he scored 12 falls and outscored his nine other opponents, 130-1; the lone point being scored by Larry Owings.

It is not difficult to imagine that had MMA been an avenue available to the Olympic champion, it would have been something to consider. For many college wrestlers MMA has become the most suitable path to follow the dream of professional athletics.

Gable could have been a force inside the octagon, and would have likely competed at lightweight. The lightweight division has truly become a fan favorite, due to the incredible pace at which the athletes fight. Gable would have surely been at home in that atmosphere.

With an unstoppable shot and flawless transitions, Dan Gable would have ruled the lightweight land. The ability that he possessed to throw and control another human was unreal.

We will never know if Gable could learn to strike, or if he could even take a punch, but we do know that he could wrestle. With his caliber of wrestling, and his work ethic, he would have become a champion.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.