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Greco-Roman Olympian Mark Madsen set for UFC debut

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Who is the UFC’s newest high-profile wrestling signee?

Wrestling - Olympics: Day 9 Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

After six years on the regional circuit, 8-0 Danish Greco-Roman wrestler turned mixed martial artist Mark Overgaard Madsen has been officially signed to the UFC.

The multiple-time World and Olympic medalist is set to make his debut against Danillo Belluardo in late September in Singapore.

Having “Olympian” attached to a name is always sure to grab attention, but just how good was Mark Madsen as an amateur wrestler?

Stylistically, Madsen approached Greco-Roman wrestling in the way that most do at the highest level, an unfortunate fact. On the feet he is fairly conservative, using his immense strength and solid positioning to earn passivity calls, allowing him to work from “par terre”, situations starting on the mat where the top wrestler can work for lifts and gut wrenches. Madsen typically capitalizes on these situations with one brutal gut wrench near the edge, or just hangs on to a small lead after one or two passivity points.

Wrestling - Olympics: Day 9 Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Hardware Collector

As an age-group wrestler, under the age of 16 as a “cadet” and then 21 as a “junior”, Madsen was always in the mix as a continental contender, but only represented Denmark on the World level once, where he did not place.

However, while still junior eligible, Madsen competed at the Nordic Championship as a senior and came home with a silver medal, showing he was ready to compete with the best grown men in Scandinavia. Over the next few years, Madsen bounced between junior and senior level tournaments.

Madsen would establish himself as Denmark’s Greco-Roman representative at the senior level, but went home from the 2002 and 2003 World Championship with nothing to show for himself. In 2004, Madsen notched wins at an Olympic Qualification tournament, but was unable to earn Denmark a spot at 74 kilograms.

2005 was Madsen’s breakout year, he made the finals and won his first World medal, a soon to be familiar silver.

Madsen repeated on the podium with bronze in 2006, and silver again in 2007.

The pride of Denmark qualified for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing but was unable to make it to the medal matches.

In 2009, Mark Madsen earned himself another World silver medal.

It’s worth noting that Madsen was not simply losing to the same wrestler time and time again, in fact he lost to a different wrestler in each medal performance. Perhaps that indicates something about his psychological profile more than his ability.

Madsen’s streak of hardware collecting seemed to be at an end when he did not place at the 2011 World Championships, but the powerful Dane surged back into contention to qualify his spot at the 2012 Olympic Games.

He performed admirably, but lost in the bronze medal match to take 5th. Madsen mirrored this performance in 2013, losing in the bronze match once again.

In 2015 Madsen returned to form, making the finals where he lost to 2012 Olympic champion Roman Vlasov of Russia.

Wrestling - Olympics: Day 9 Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images

2016 Olympic Games

Mark Overgaard Madsen ran through an incredible lineup of opponents on his way to the Olympic finals.

After receiving a bye in the qualification round, he was matched with Iran’s Saeid Morad Abdvali.

Saeid Morad Abdvali (Iran)

Junior World Championship Asian Games Asian Championship World Championship Olympic Games
Junior World Championship Asian Games Asian Championship World Championship Olympic Games
2008 Gold 2010 Gold 2014 Bronze 2011 Gold 2016 Bronze
2009 Gold 2014 Bronze 2019 Gold 2017 Bronze

Madsen prevailed by 1-1 on criteria, most recent score.

In the quarterfinals, Madsen met Viktor Nemes, where he scored the only actual offense of his entire 2016 tournament to win 4-0.

Viktor Nemes (Serbia)

U23 European Championship European Championship European Games World Championship
U23 European Championship European Championship European Games World Championship
2015 Gold 2016 Silver 2015 Silver 2017 Gold
2018 Silver 2018 Bronze
2019 Bronze

For your convenience, I have time stamped said offense:

In the semifinals snuck past a former World champion in Peter Bacsi, 1-0.

Peter Bacsi (Hungary)

European Championship World Championship
European Championship World Championship
2008 Gold 2014 Gold
2010 Bronze 2018 Gold
2011 Silver
2014 Gold

Unfortunately, Roman Vlasov awaited in the finals, the man who defeated Madsen in the 2015 finals.

Real points were scored, but it was all Vlasov, 5-1.


Mark O. Madsen has the athletic pedigree to be extremely successful in MMA. He clearly knows how to win at the highest level, but may have either stylistic limitations or mental blocks that prevented him from reaching the very top in Greco.

A later exploration of how his style has translated in MMA will be necessary to truly determine his ceiling.

A string of decision wins has me worried Madsen’s “tight” style in Greco has made its way to MMA, but time will tell.