MMA In Future Olympics?

  on July 27 2012 6:19 PM

Mixed Martial Arts would make a great Olympic sport. Its unique mixture of required skills would bring a new crop of athletes to the Olympics, while also encouraging multi-sport crossovers within Olympic teams. MMA could make the cut in the future. It would take some work, a whole lot of time and changes, and probably more patience than the average fan possesses, but it could be done. Should some entity in the MMA world attempt to move the sport in that direction?

In the Ancient Olympics, MMA was known as Pankration, meaning "all powers." Of course, in the Ancient Greek tradition, competitors were naked and oiled, and rules were extremely liberal. Today's Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts have gone a long way to make the sport palatable to modern audiences. However, MMA will not be admitted in the Olympics under existing rules.

The Olympic goal presents a great opportunity to review the sport's current rules and develop a separate set of amateur rules. Look to boxing for an example. Olympic and Amateur bouts make use of protective headgear and shorter fights.

Also, they use a point system based on clean shots landed, not on damage done to an opponent. This presents a clear delineation between the goals of amateur and professional fighting. The push toward Olympic MMA would create a fresh opportunity to revisit the basic rules and scoring of the sport. It would be complicated, but a system could be developed to account for weighing and scoring clean strikes, takedowns, and submission attempts, coming up with a clear winner. This, in turn, would present the opportunity to clean up and revise judging issues on a professional level.

Another major hurdle for Olympic MMA would be to have a single international governing body. This organization would require a great deal of political support. And while it would most likely require financial support from companies like Zuffa (that's where the money is), it would also have to retain its independence and impartiality. So in the event that furthering amateur MMA would require, say, giving up elbow strikes to gain acceptance on the world's largest athletic stages, the independent committee would have the authority to make that change without beholding to any of the professional organizations.

The issue of oversight is largely political and financial. Zuffa, the UFC's parent company, was willing and able to take on state sanctioning issues, even though it benefited other competing organizations. But the financial incentive was there. With creating an amateur organization, there is no direct financial benefit to the company. Indirectly, amateur and Olympic MMA would develop talent, build a following and tolerance for the sport, and generally expand the reach of MMA in the world. But Zuffa is not going to make a fortune directly from the events.

With some tweaks and investments, MMA could make a great Olympic sport. But should the sport make that push? Absolutely. The effort required to develop MMA into a viable Olympic event would be monumental. But that effort could only result in huge positive growth. And even if MMA didn't make the cut, the lessons learned from trying would have an impact on the professional side. In particular, the development of a new amateur scoring system could bring new and exciting changes to the sport we think we know.

Sports like Karate and Jiu Jitsu still are not in the Olympics. Sports like Equestrian Dressage and Rhythmic Gymnastics still are. Not everything about the Olympics is perfect, or perfectly fair. But things change. Just ask the US Olympic Tug-of-War team of 1904.