An interesting article in the Columbus Dispatch highlights one of the possible victims of MMA's popularity - amateur wrestling.
As MMA gets more popular, and payouts get larger, less people are choosing amateur wrestling as a career and foregoing the Olympics for the Octagon. With wrestling being perhaps the easiest skill to transition to MMA, it seems inevitable that athletes would choose to make the transition.
"People doing MMA now didn't have the dream of being a UFC champion" as a kid, said former Ohio State national champion Tommy Rowlands, who works in the MMA industry but doesn't fight. "That's where wrestling is really going to take a hit if we don't do something. (Today's) kids are going to become adults and then they are going to say, 'Forget the Olympics. I want to be a UFC champion.' "
The temptation is everywhere:
"I might take a fight right after worlds," [member of the US wrestling team, Shawn Bunch] said. "You could do both, but it takes a lot of time. It's very tempting. I've got a lot of friends in (MMA). They try to (persuade me), flashing their money."
In response, USA wrestling has chosen to sweeten the amateur wrestling pot a bit, offering $250,000 for a gold in 2012, $50,000 for silver and $25,000 for bronze. But, as Tommy Rowlands points out, the promise of fame and wealth in MMA may be too much for some.
"You could make $18,000 in your first MMA fight ... and be a star," Rowlands said. "The only way you become a star in wrestling is if you win the Olympic gold medal."
I think amateur wrestling will survive, but it will definitely take a hit as wrestlers who aren't top level will see no reason to avoid MMA. The trickle down effect, while not devastating, may very well hurt the sport as people choose fighting over competing, mentoring, training others. Time will tell, but I wonder if some of these guys aren't shooting the hand that fed them a little.