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Could MMA Be An Olympic Sport By As Early As 2020?

Could MMA Be An Olympic Sport By As Early As 2020?
By John Balfe

With various combat sports like boxing, wrestling, judo and taekwondo all represented in the Olympics it doesn't come as much of a surprise that several Olympians have tried their hands at mixed martial arts.

UFC stars like Ronda Rousey, Daniel Cormier, Henry Cejudo and Sara McMann were all members of the United States Olympic teams in recent years but the transition between the Olympics and MMA was considered to be a one-way street - perhaps until now.

There is a very real chance that MMA could be included in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo after the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF), the group which oversees amateur mixed martial arts, plans to submit an application to SportAccord (the umbrella organisation for all Olympic and non-Olympic sports). If that gets accepted, it would leave the IMMAF free to submit an application to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for inclusion in future Olympic games.

Karate, another element of mixed martial arts, has been accepted by the IOC, and this gives IMMAF CEO Densign White, himself a former Olympian in judo, hope that mixed martial arts is closer than ever to being considered an Olympic sport.

Firstly, I'd like to congratulate the World Karate Federation. It is fantastic to see another MMA core sport welcomed into the Olympics. Like judo, Taekwondo, boxing and wrestling, Karate has very much informed the development of MMA and shares many of its values. Karate's acceptance by the IOC also gives us hope as IMMAF submits its application to SportAccord this month for sport recognition, having exceeded all criteria.

MMA's potential inclusion in the Olympics would go a long way to legitmising the sport which is still fodder for the ire of callers into lunchtime radio phone-in shows and, judging by the success that Ireland has had in professional mixed martial arts and the amateur MMA championships (where Ireland topped the medals table in Las Vegas last month), it would provide Ireland with many more legitimate medal hopes in future Olympics.

It is aguable that MMA, or rather a variant of it, was one of the original Olympic sports. Pankration, which first appeared at the Greek Olympics in 648 BC, shared many of the same criteria as MMA does. Striking, wrestling and submission moves were all allowed with only biting and gouging deemed illegal by the rules.



Will MMA one day be included in the Olympics? It may take some time so if Tokyo 2020 comes too soon, there's every chance that the 2024 Olympic games - potentially in Los Angeles - could be the ideal stage to announce MMA's arrival to the world's most famous sporting event.

The IMMAF are condident. According to a spokesperson:

Our vision is for Mixed Martial Arts to be recognized as a sport and ultimately become an Olympic sport. Becoming an Olympic sport is the ultimate achievement and highest formal recognition possible for any sport. Hence that is what the IMMAF will strive towards.

We see that the challenges for MMA are great today, but so are the opportunities, and the IMMAF should not have any lesser ambition for MMA than this. When the IMMAF formulates goals, strategies and tactics over the coming years they will need to pass the test – will this be an instrument in fulfilling the organisation’s vision?

There are plenty of people who hope that they achieve this goal.

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