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Mixed Martial Arts and the Olympics

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Dave Meltzer has an interesting breakdown and history of the relationship between former Olympians and MMA. More specifically, the article is about how those Olympians have fared in the sport of MMA after their Olympic careers are mostly over. Meltzer, quite rightly, finds no correlation and offers this account for evidence. Notable quote:

Perhaps the most famous example of this occurred four years ago. Karam Gaber Ibrahim of Egypt, then 24, was the star wrestler in the 2004 Olympics.

Competing at 96 kilograms (211.5 pounds) in Greco-Roman, he was throwing world champions around like they were school children. But just a few months after winning the gold medal, he fought on a New Year’s Eve show in Osaka, Japan, against the larger pro wrestler-turned-fighter, Kazuyuki Fujita, and was knocked out cold from a punch that resembled a clothesline-style manuever in just 1:07.

The Gaber Ibrahim situation is common in Japan, where they look to put their experienced MMA fighters against people in other sports with international credentials, but inexperienced in the fight game.

Still, that doesn’t always work out for the Japanese.

On the same night as the Ibrahim vs. Fujita fight, Rulon Gardner, the 2000 gold medalist and 2004 bronze medalist as a superheavyweight in Greco-Roman wrestling, on a rival show in Saitama, Japan, faced former judo gold medalist Hidehiko Yoshida. Gardner’s balance from wrestling enabled him to keep the fight standing, and he used size and rudimentary boxing to batter Yoshida the entire match to take the decision. But Gardner said he did the fight as a one-time deal, had no interest in it as a career, and never fought again.

There are others as well who have been thrown to the wolves early: Katsuhiko Nagata, Bu Kyung Jung and Kazuyuki Miyata. Even though Meltzer is correct that there's little relationship between Olympic status/glory and success in MMA, part of that is a function of the lack of adequate preparation some of these MMA athletes recieve. Many are given very high profile matches against veteran opposition without the benefit of time to develop a usable skill set for Mixed Martial Arts. The results are demonstrative in that they prove even world-class athletes cannot compete in professional MMA at the highest levels on their backgrounds alone, but they squander the opportunity to harness their backgrounds to produce more successful fighters. Quite a waste, really.