LONDON – Tuesday's news that the International Olympic Committee has plans to eliminate wrestling starting with the 2020 games sent shockwaves through the MMA community.
Dozens of fighters took to social media to rally the troops in support of the sport, which has led many amateur wrestlers ultimately to mixed martial arts – including many eventual champions.
And while UFC President Dana White is sympathetic and said he doesn't want the sport to go away at the Olympic level, he's also not very surprised.
White has been a supporter of amateur wrestling, and said he knows its importance in MMA.
"I've been battling this problem for years now," White on Wednesday told MMAjunkie.com (UFC blog for UFC news, UFC rumors, fighter interviews and event previews/recaps
) after a news conference for UFC on FUEL TV 7 in London. "Colleges are dropping it. High schools are dropping wrestling. The problem with wrestling is, it's an awesome base for mixed martial arts, for everything – I mean, I've never wrestled, but what I hear it does to guys that wrestle, it changes peoples' lives. It's this grueling, hard work and dedication – all the things that go in with being a wrestler."
But ultimately, could the possible demise of the sport, at least post-high school level, wind up being a plus for MMA in terms of its potential at the Olympic level.
"The problem is nobody wants to watch it," White said. "Any sport, especially these days, it's about selling tickets and eyeballs and viewers and all these other things. And there's been a lot of people saying, 'You've got to f---ing do something,' but – and Garry (Cook) and I were talking about this yesterday –what this could be is the evolution of mixed martial arts becoming an Olympic sport."
White said MMA's status as one of the fastest growing sports in the world could help usher it into the Olympics.
But as for wrestling's fate? White believes that may be, unfortunately, sealed.
"We bring spectators, eyeballs – whether it's TV or whatever it is," he said. "This sport draws. Wrestling doesn't. I can't be the guy to run out and try and save wrestling. I've been doing it for years. You know how many wrestling programs I funded over the past five, six years? A lot. Yeah, I don't want to see wrestling go away either. It's such a big part of the sport. But, something's going to happen here. It's going to evolve into mixed martial arts or something. I don't know. I don't think wrestling is going to go anywhere, but competitive wrestling definitely is."