I had thought about this back when the Olympics were taking place a couple months ago. It took me some time to get my act together and really think about how this would work but finally here is my first independent piece in quite some time.
MMA fans started clamoring for this heavily after seeing sports such as wrestling, judo, boxing, and Tae Kwon Do in the Olympics this year. If each of these sports can have a showcase why can't MMA? Please do not think that I am petitioning for MMA in the Olympics. MMA is doing just fine on its own and does not NEED the Olympics. However, if it were to become an olympic sport it would provide MMA with a global stage to countries that do not have a strong base in the sport and would provide access to a sport that many do not have regular access to otherwise. It would be a great opportunity but it is not necessary.
Obviously rules would have to be internationally regulated and sanctioned by the IOC and rule changes would have to be implemented for the safety and viability of the tournament format. Long gone are the days of single night, no holds barred tournaments that left competitors exiting every other fight due to injury and/or exhaustion. Certain measures would have to be taken and here would be my set of rules to allow MMA to take place in the Olympics over a two week span:
1. Each weight class (heavyweight to bantamweight) would be comprised of an 8 man tournament spread out through the two weeks. Each fight would take place every 4 days allowing each competitor time to refresh and prepare for a new opponent.
2. Fights are scored on a limitless increasing point system like all the other martial art competitions instead of the professional system of scoring by round or scoring the whole fight. Fighters would amass points in the striking game like in boxing. They would also amass points for their take down ability. And at any point if a submission hold is put in place the fight is automatically over whether the fighter taps or not.
3. Fighters wear protective gear on their head and legs like in Tae Kwon Do. Open finger gloves still must be allowed for effective grappling. However, the padding will be much different. Gloves will be 7 oz not 5 and thumb protectors are mandatory.
4. All fights except the final will be two 5 minute rounds with a sudden victory round only if necessary. The final will go three 5 minute rounds.
5. All fights take place in a cage for the safety of the fighters (no one can fall out of a cage).
6. All illegal moves (i.e. strikes to the groin, eye gouging, headbutting etc. ) remain illegal. Also, no elbows, knees, or kicks to the head on the ground. And no stomps at all.
These rules are all in place to protect the purity of the competition and the safety of the fighters. This competition has nothing to do with professional prize fighting. This competition is simply to show who is the best pure mixed martial artist on the planet. This is not about entertaining fans with KOs, choke outs, and blood. Please keep that in mind when thinking that this sounds nothing like MMA. In a sense it isn't anything like it but unfortunately this is how it would have to be to get it accepted and to make it a viable sport where people don't get injured left and right like in the old UFC tournaments. With all that on the table here is how I would see these tournaments shape up if it had been this summer. Please note that when more than one representative from a country is in a given weight class it is based on total number of applicants at the top of the weight class. For example if the US has 10 welterweights vying for a spot and Brazil has 5 the US would get 2 into the tournament and Brazil would get 1.
1. Fedor Emelianenko (Russia) v. 8. Mirko Cro Cop (Croatia)
2. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (Brazil) v. 7. Cheick Kongo (France)
3. Josh Barnett (USA) v. 6. Alistair Overeem (Holland)
4. Randy Couture (USA) v. 5. Andrei Arlovski (Belarus)
1. Forrest Griffin (USA) v. 8. Kazuhiro Nakamura (Japan)
2. Lyoto Machida (Brazil) v. 7. Goran Reljic (Croatia)
3. Rashad Evans (USA) v. 6. Remeau Thierry Sokoudjou (Camaroon)
4. Mauricio Rua (Brazil) v. 5. Vladimir Matyushenko (Belarus)
1. Anderson Silva (Brazil) v. 8. Patrick Cote (Canada)
2. Rich Franklin (USA) v. 7. Cung Le (Vietnam)
3. Dan Henderson (USA) v. 6. Michael Bisping (Great Britain)
4. Yushin Okami (Japan) v. 5. Gegard Mousasi (Holland)
1. Georges St. Pierre (Canada) v. 8. Akira Kikuchi (Japan)
2. Thiago Alves (Brazil) v. 7. Akihiro Gono (Japan)
3. Jon Fitch (USA) v. 6. Hayato Sakurai (Japan)
4. Josh Koscheck (USA) v. 5. Diego Sanchez (USA)
1. BJ Penn (USA) v. 8. Vitor Ribeiro (Brazil)
2. Eddie Alvarez (USA) v. 7. Gesias Calvancante (Brazil)
3. Takanori Gomi (Japan) v. 6. Sean Sherk (USA)
4. Tatsuya Kawajiri (Japan) v. 5. Joachim Hansen (Norway)
1. Urijah Faber (USA) v. 8. Jong Man Kim (South Korea)
2. Norifumi Yamamoto (Japan) v. 7. Wilson Reis (Brazil)
3. Jens Pulver (USA) v. 6. Raphael Assuncao (Brazil)
4. Wagney Fabiano (Brazil) v. 5. Mark Hominick (Canada)
1. Miguel Torres (USA) v. 8. Atsushi Yamamoto (Japan)
2. Brian Bowles (USA) v. 7. Koetsu Okazaki (Japan)
3. Manny Tapia (USA) v. 6. Will Ribeiro (Brazil)
4. Masakatsu Ueda (Japan) v. 5. Marcos Galvao (Brazil)
Wouldn't these matchups and the potential match ups they create just make you salivate over the possibilities!? Even without the violence of a prize fight I would love to see any of these ridiculous competitors in the cage with the others to see who is the best pure technical fighter on the planet. And if this didn't get your heart pounding think about the qualifiers! Obviously many of these countries only have one true competitor at the weight class. But in the cases of the US, Brazil, and Japan think of what these potential representatives would have to go through just to represent their country. The best example of this would be qualifying for the US in the welterweight division. Take a gander at what qualifiying would look like just to get a spot on the team:
18. Antonio McKee v. 19. Brett Cooper
15. Dustin Hazelett v. Winner 18/19
16. Chris Wilson v. 17. Chris Lytle
1. Jon Fitch v. Winner 16/17
2. Josh Koscheck v. Winner 15 - 18/19
3. Diego Sanchez v. 14. Nick Thompson
4. Jake Shields v. 13. Nick Diaz
5. Matt Serra v. 12. Marcus Davis
6. Carlos Condit v. 11. Mike Swick
7. Matt Hughes v. 10. Brock Larson
8. Karo Parisyan v. Jay Hieron
That gauntlet is ridiculous!
This obviously is all a great idea in theory and this was really fun for me to work out as an exercise. In all actuality though it is just a pipe dream right now. Again, in no way am I emploring the IOC to make this a sport in 2012 or for Dana White to lobby for this (and much like any other professional owner this would be his worst nightmare to have fighters under contract compete here and possibly get hurt). What I am saying though is that if it were presented under the right circumstances this would be a great opportunity for MMA to show the world what a truly fantastic sport it is even without the bloodlust that accompanies the professional sport. And if that can't turn the tide look at it this way: if speed walking can be an olympic sport why cant MMA?? Thanks for reading!
Soccer kicks and headstomps...