MMA In The Olympics
The recently concluded Olympic Games in Beijing sparked debate in the MMA world about the fact that Taekwondo, Boxing, Wrestling, and Judo – all elements of mixed martial arts – are found in the Olympics, while our beloved sport is not.
It can be fun to dream, and MMA in the Olympics would be the coolest thing ever. So why not indulge our wildest fantasies and allow ourselves to pretend that the fastest-growing sport in the world gets added to the Olympic docket? What would it be like if the best fighters from all over the globe got to represent their respective countries in an International tournament the likes of which we’ve never seen?
As we begin this fictional journey, we’ll try to mix in some logic so that you don’t have to strain yourself too much to suspend your disbelief. We will adhere to the unified rules of MMA (as used in the UFC). The only major change is that the fights will take place in a ring as opposed to a cage to eliminate any viewing troubles.
Below, you will find what the rosters for each country might look like, as well as a mock bracket as to how it would all play out. Let the debate begin.
Without the ability to use a qualifying tournament due to the inherent nature of the sport, countries are forced to form selection committees in order to determine which fi ghters will represent them in the fi ve major weight classes. Politics become a huge factor in the decisionmaking process, and no decision becomes more politically charged than the US committee’s selection of the light heavyweight fi ghter. A faction of members make a strong push for Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, claiming that his youth makes him a better candidate than Chuck Liddell, who, at 37, could struggle to make it through three possible fi ghts in 2 weeks. The fact that “Rampage” is 0-3 in his career against Brazilian light heavyweights Wanderlei Silva and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua is also a major concern in the event that team Brazil selects one of the former Chute Boxe members as its light heavyweight representative. But the fact that Liddell is also 0-2 in head-to-head meetings with Jackson is too big of an obstacle to overcome. With Griffi n being 1-0 against the duo, he gets the nod in what is considered a shock to many.
Controversy also erupts at welterweight, where Jake Shields gets the nomination over Jon Fitch. Despite being ranked lower than Fitch is most major rankings polls, Shields is given the shot because Fitch has already lost to Georges St. Pierre. With St. Pierre considered a favorite for gold, the selection committee decides to go in another direction.
At 45 years of age, Randy Couture is chosen to represent the United States at heavyweight.
Brazil’s decision at light heavyweight becomes even more chaotic than the United States’ decision at 205 pounds. Several members of the Brazilian committee are old school and believe that Wanderlei Silva deserves the spot based on seniority. Not liking what they are hearing, Anderson Silva and his manager, Ed Soares, lead a contingent of younger Brazilian fi ghters who believe that Machida’s undefeated record and recent string of impressive wins make him more deserving than Silva, who has lost three of his last four fi ghts. The UFC middleweight champion goes to bat for Machida and says if he isn’t picked then they better fi nd a replacement at 185. With the country’s options at 185 considered to be Demian Maia, Thales Leites, and Vitor Belfort, the decision to go with Machida as its 205-pounds representative becomes unanimous.
The two toughest decisions for the Japanese selection committee are what to do at welterweight and middleweight. Gono gets the nod over Hayato Sakurai at welterweight due to the fact that Sakurai has not impressed in his recent fi ghts. However, a late push is made to get Aoki on the team after he went 3-1 in DREAM’s lightweight Grand Prix, and the decision is made to move him up to welterweight. Selection committee offi cials are most concerned about the lack of depth at light heavyweight and heavyweight, which is putting the team’s overall prospects for success in question.
Red Devil Fight Club Manager Vadim Finkelstein isn’t an official member of the Russian selection committee, but he’s still pulling all the strings. A huge debate over who will represent the country breaks out, but Finkelstein is successful in placing Red Bear lightweight standout Vladimir Zenin on the team because the committee knows Finkelstein must be appeased in order to have the support of Fedor Emelianenko. The selection of Serdyukov at welterweight is a surprise to many because even though he is Russianborn, he is a US-based fighter. However, without an obvious candidate at 170 for the Russians, they turn to Serdyukov and his experience fighting in high-pressure situations in the WEC. Without an obvious choice at 205 pounds, Roman Zentsov agrees to make the cut in order to honor his country. However, Russia has no alternate at 205. … Amar Suloev is Armenian but qualifies because he holds Russian citizenship. The same loophole applies to lightweight alternate Karin Grigoriyan.
Canada’s reputation for producing strong fi ghters the past few years has grown signifi cantly. While the team is well-stocked at the lighter weights, it becomes obvious to selection committee chairman Scott White that it doesn’t have the depth at the heavier weights. The country’s medal prospects really are limited to St. Pierre, with Kang having lost three out of his last four fi ghts and Horodecki entering a lightweight bracket that includes elite competitors such as Penn, Gomi, and Calvancante.
Much like Canada, the UK is solid at 155, 170, and 185 pounds, but is severely lacking at light heavyweight and heavyweight. Complicating matters is the country’s lack of depth when naming alternates. Not only is Kelly forced to move from welterweight to middleweight, but with Lee Murray rotting away in a Moroccan jail, Coach Ian Freeman has no choice but to name himself to the team as Zikic’s backup.
In most weight classes, the choices were clear-cut for the Netherlands team, but the selection committee believed that it was best to convince Manhoef to move back to light heavyweight so that Mousasi could get a chance to compete at middleweight. Though born Armenian, Mousasi is a Dutch citizen and thus is eligible to compete. The same loophole is used for Mousasi’s alternate, Sengoku middleweight Grand Prix entrant Bahadurzada, who was born in Afghanistan but now is a citizen of the Netherlands.
Thanks to the help of selection committee chairman Benjamin Baroukh-Ebstein, France is able to fi eld a team good enough to break into the Olympic tournament. Kongo and Diabate (who is asked to cut to middleweight) offer the greatest notoriety, but Baron’s profi le has increased in recent months thanks to his upset win in Shooto over Hayato Sakurai. The win not only earned him a spot in the UFC, but garnered him a spot on the French Olympic MMA squad. Pundits also believe that Casimir and Rimbon are true prospects who have upset potential. However, there are questions as to whether they are ready to perform in such a high-pressure situation.