Look at any other tweet about the Olympics and you?ll see the hashtag #inspireageneration and while this is evidently there out of a desire that the London Olympics will cause a generation of couch potato British kids to switch off their PS3s and pick up a pair of running shoes, a tennis racket or see if their bike is still in the shed, I can?t help but view the Olympics as a potential launch pad for the next stage in the development of UK MMA.
MMA may not be in the Olympics and mastery of any of the Olympic disciplines may not necessarily translate to a successful career in the cage, but there is an undoubted link between the Olympics and Mixed Martial Arts. Ronda Rousey won a Bronze medal in Judo for the USA at 70kg in the 2008 games and is now the face of women?s MMA. Daniel Cormier captained the US freestyle wrestling team in Beijing and is now one of the highest ranked heavyweight fighters in the world. Legends like Randy Couture and Dan Henderson were in their nation?s Greco-Roman wrestling team and current fighters like Satoshi Ishii (Gold, Judo, 2008,) Alexis Villa (Bronze, wrestling 1996), Sara McMann (Silver, wrestling, 2004) and Randi Miller (Bronze, wrestling, 2008) have tasted the Olympic podium before transitioning to the cage.
In the light of this and especially in the wake of Britain?s most successful Olympics of all time, I can?t help but think if any of Britain?s Olympic standouts might transition to the cage and lead British MMA into a new phase of legitimacy, success and growth. Of course, our medal-winning sailors, cyclists and dressage team probably wouldn?t be too interested in, or inclined towards a switch to the cage, but there are plenty combat sports at the Olympiad.
While the sweet science has often been portrayed as MMA?s great nemesis, at least in terms of gaining the pay per view buys and mainstream acceptance as the #1 combat sport, boxing is a key part of the MMA fighter?s canon. If you lack a standup game, you will never be elite level and of the many striking disciplines, boxing is by far the most popular.
Sadly, I?m writing this before the medals are determined in the men?s boxing (I?m going on honeymoon on Sunday 12th, so I hope you?ll forgive me) but this year marked the first year that Women could compete in boxing at the Olympics and there was massive success from some British (in the geographical sense) girls.
First up Team GB?s Nicola Adams won gold in the Flyweight (51kg) division, swiftly followed by Ireland?s Katie Taylor winning gold in the Lightweight (60kg) division. Both girls are very experienced, at 29 and 26 years old respectively and as such might not want to convert to MMA this far into their careers, but if either could develop some takedown defence and/or a ground game, I?d LOVE to see them bringing some top notch boxing into the flyweight and bantamweight divisions of the Women?s game.
As I?ve said above, Ronda Rousey used the momentum from her bronze medal at 70kg in Beijing to catapult herself to the top of Women?s MMA. As a martial art which starts standing and ends on the ground, with the most important aspects being balance, presence of mind and technique, Judo is one of the most adaptable bases for an MMA career. What?s even better is that Team GB has TWO medalists who could cross over, both of them girls.
Gemma Gibbons won an emotional silver medal in the half-heavyweight 78kg class while Karina Bryant won a bronze medal in the 78kg+ weight class. Bryant may be too set in her ways at 33 to cross over, although Gibbons is well placed at 25 years old to make the switch. One problem both women may find is that Women?s MMA tends to max out at the featherweight division, and as both would likely need to compete at lightweight or above, they may simply be too big to find meaningful opposition, given the current limited nature of women?s MMA.
Always one of the most stylish martial arts, many have said that Taekwondo isn?t practical for use in MMA, given its emphasis on spinning kicks and complete lack of takedowns. However, the attributes balance and quick reactions are never a bad thing and many top MMA fighters, including current UFC champions Benson Henderson and Georges St-Pierre are known to train in TKD and if that?s not evidence enough to justify the sport being talked about here, I don?t know what is.
As I?m writing this, I?ve just watched Wales? Jade Jones become the first British woman to take a gold medal in TKD, defeating the double world champion Hu Yuzhuo in the process. At only 19 years of age, she?s got her whole career in front of her and weighing in at 57kg, she?s ideally placed to compete in the Flyweight or if she?s still got growing to do, Bantamweight divisions.
Broadly accepted as the best possible base for an MMA fighter, with it?s emphasis on controlling where the fight takes place, allowing you to smother an opponent to a super-dull decision or keep it standing where you?re standup may take effect or to the ground where you?re secondary BJJ skills can take over, wrestling has already shown itself to be the finest breeding ground for MMA standouts of the future.
Sadly, Britain didn?t post any medalists in the Greco-Roman wrestling and the freestyle is yet to be completed. I?m not expecting medals anyway, as our wrestling has long been far behind the rest of the world anyway and I?m less than impressed with the way we suddenly naturalised a bunch of Ukrainian wrestlers who had ostensibly been brought over to train our home grown talent. That?s just not cricket.
However, given my blond haired, blue eyed genetics and tendency to dedicate things to Odin, I?m plenty chuffed to see Sweden?s Jimmy Lidberg and Johan Euren snare bronze medals in the Greco-Roman wrestling at 96kg and 120kg respectively. At 30 and 27 years old, they?ve still got time to transition to the cage, and I?d happily see some Olympic gold round the necks of a competitor on a Vision FC card in the near future.
Sadly, I?ve had to write and post this before the freestyle wrestling, men?s boxing and taekwondo have wrapped up so it?s by no means a complete run down of the combat sports potential coming out of these games, but I ?ve got a honeymoon to go on?
Of course, mastery of boxing, wrestling, taekwondo, judo or any other one discipline will never make you an elite level MMA fighter, but I?d love to see some crossover from the sheer amount of hype the Olympics have received, raising MMA?s profile and legitimacy in this country and having our beloved Olympic medalists competing in ?cage fighting? can only help.
Can you see any of our medal winners crossing over and making an impact? Do you think MMA should be in the Olympics? Failing that, and given that the next games are in Rio, should Brazilian Jiu-jitsu be included as an Olympic sport? I?d love to see that?
Disclaimer: This article consists of the opinion and thoughts of the author and as such should not be considered as the position of Full Mount MMA. This piece is intended to create debate, not to give offence to any fans, fighters or promoters.
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