KEY POINTS

  • Multiple martial artists seeing action at the Tokyo Olympics could end up joining ONE Championship
  • Ritu Phogat's cousin, Vinesh, could make the jump to MMA at some point
  • Steve Dacosta could transition to MMA with France legitimizing the sport

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics are in full swing with athletes from around the globe gathering to display their skills with the hopes of returning home with a medal.

Among the sports being featured in the quadrennial meet are well-established martial arts such as boxing, judo, karate, taekwondo, and wrestling.

It’s normal for fighters to transition to a professional career once their amateur competition days are over, so it would be no surprise to see some of the athletes on this list in the mixed martial arts (MMA) cage someday.

Given the breadth of combat disciplines, there’s no better home for these individuals than ONE Championship, an Asian organization that has been promoting other martial arts such as Muay Thai, kickboxing and submission grappling aside from its flagship sport of MMA since 2018.

Now, let's go through some names in the Olympics that would fare best in the Circle.

Lasha Bekauri of Team Georgia Lasha Bekauri of Team Georgia Photo: Getty Images | Harry How

Lasha Bekauri (21), Georgia, Judo

Hailing from an MMA hotbed in Akhmeta, Georgia, Lasha Bekauri has youth and a rock-solid foundation on his side.

From Ronda Rousey to Yoshihiro Akiyama, there’s a long list of successful MMA fighters coming from a Judo background.

With some sharpening of the eight-limbs, who’s to say Bekauri—now a gold medalist—can’t parlay his Olympic success into an MMA career?

Uta Abe of Team Japan Uta Abe of Team Japan Photo: Getty Images | Harry How

Uta Abe (21) and Hifumi Abe (23), Japan, Judo

Already fans of ONE Championship, Uta and Hifumi Abe both captured gold at the 2020 Olympics, a novel feat for siblings competing in the same Olympic games.

Similar to the reasoning used with Bakauri, the Abe siblings lay claim to a smorgasbord of judo championships, medals, and trophies alike.

Moreover, they come with the base needed to begin an MMA career. The question is, how far could they go?

Anastasija Zolotic of Team United States Anastasija Zolotic of Team United States Photo: Getty Images | Maja Hitij

Anastasija Zolotic (18), United States, Taekwondo

At just 18 years old, Anastasija Zolotic has already firmly etched her name in the record books after becoming the first American woman to take home taekwondo gold.

If the Floridian were to assume a career in MMA, she would be privy to a massive head start in the striking department.

At the Olympic games, she showed a comprehensive grasp for distance striking in terms of both offense and defense.

With an exceptionally large reach, Zolotic has all the ingredients to become a nightmare for opponents in the striking department.

Richard Torres Junior of the United States Richard Torres Junior of the United States Photo: Getty Images | Luis Robayo - Pool

Richard Torres Jr. (21), United States, Boxing

Richard Torres Jr. boasts the hand speed and power to be successful in just about any striking-based martial art.

At the ripe age of 21, the sky's the limit for the third-generation Mexican-American. Of course, with the likes of Arjan Bhullar holding the ONE Championship crown, Torres would likely require a lot of time in the wrestling room.

However, it seems that time is on his side to develop his ground game.

Steve Dacosta (24), France, Karate

With the legalization of MMA in France, 2018 gold medalist Steve Dacosta makes all the sense in the world to serve as a ONE Championship candidate.

A master at counter-striking and controlling range, Dacosta brings to the table a highly-educated striking repertoire, one which has the potential to seamlessly transition to MMA.

With his ability to move in and out of the pocket, it would be difficult to find someone like him with a comparable skill set.

Panipak Wongpattanakit (R) of Team Thailand Panipak Wongpattanakit (R) of Team Thailand Photo: Getty Images | Quality Sport Images

Panipak Wongpattanakit (23), Thailand, Taekwondo

Hailing from a nation known for churning out talented strikers, Thailand’s Panipak Wongpattanakit possesses high-level speed, advanced technique, and a gold medal to boot.

The 23-year-old could slot into the ONE Championship atomweight division, and with the right coaching and team around her, she could reign as a dangerous striker for a long time.

The holdup is Wongpattanik’s ability to keep the fight in her realm. Similar to the prospect of  Zolotic transitioning to MMA, the move would require a lot of time spent on the wrestling mats and in the gi.

Luckily, time is an ally on her part.

Vinesh Phogat Vinesh Phogat Photo: Getty Images | Simon Hofmann

Vinesh Phogat (25), India, Wrestling

The cousin of ONE Championship atomweight contender Ritu Phogat, Vinesh is a no-brainer to make this list.

The Phogat family is legendary in India and beyond for their reputation in the sport of wrestling.

In 2016, the critically acclaimed Bollywood film “Dangal” was released, encompassing the Phogat family’s journey and accomplishments within the sport.

Vinesh is the latest to step onto the big stage at the 2020 Olympics in Japan. With access to top MMA training partners at the Evolve MMA Academy and the blueprint of her cousin Ritu to follow, the ingredients are already in place for the 25-year-old to make the transition to the cage.