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SportsMixed Martial Arts

Olympics not needed for MMA

Dan Henderson, top, punches Mauricio Rua during the

Dan Henderson, top, punches Mauricio Rua during the second round of a light heavyweight bout at UFC 139 in San Jose, Calif. Henderson won by unanimous decision. (Nov. 19, 2011) Credit: AP

MMA as we know and see it today does not need to be in the Olympics.

In between all the chatter this week after the International Olympic Committee announced it intends to drop wrestling from the Summer Games in 2020 resides the notion of MMA one day becoming an Olympic sport.

Sure, many of the sports that comprise mixed martial arts -- boxing, wrestling, judo, taekwondo -- are already Olympic events. But MMA should remain where it is: a professional sport, regulated by athletic commissions (except in New York, of course, where it remains illegal still) and on a combination of broadcast television, pay cable stations and pay-per-view.

Wrestling won't be officially dropped as one of the 26 Olympic sports until the IOC votes on it in September.

"This is a process of renewing and renovating the program for the Olympics," IOC spokesman Mark Adams said Tuesday. "In the view of the executive board, this was the best program for the Olympic Games in 2020. It's not a case of what's wrong with wrestling; it is what's right with the 25 core sports."

One of those "core sports," by the way, is modern pentathlon, which combines fencing, horse riding, swimming, running and shooting.

The Olympics have given MMA fans quite a list of fighters to appreciate in the cage after they left the rings behind, including Dan Henderson (wrestling) and Ronda Rousey (judo), both of whom fight next Saturday at UFC 157.

Sports are about dollars and people watching on television screens (and computers and mobile devices). The casual "event" fan who goes for gymnastics and swimming isn't likely to gravitate toward hammer fists and flying knees.

Hard to see Bob Costas doing a studio sit-down interview with an MMA fighter with a black right eye and a swollen left eye the day before the gold-medal round.

How would an MMA tournament work during a 16-day Olympiad? You would need at least eight fighters in order to make the competition somewhat legitimate. The last time someone fought three times in 16 days or less was the last three weeks of "The Ultimate Fighter Live" in, ironically, the summer of 2012. (OK, there was probably some crazy one-day, multi-fight tournament somewhere in the world to dispute that last sentence, but it is intended metaphorically to make a point.)

Would MMA be a one-day Olympic tournament? Would the fights include headgear to protect fighters and preserve the tournament? These are questions that need answers before we start screaming "MMA should be in the Olympics!" Heck, the UFC and Bellator can barely keep their fight cards intact anymore, sometimes canceling bouts within two weeks of fight night.

There are far too many health variables that go into the sport of MMA to make it an Olympic event of worth and credibility. Leave MMA where it is, the way it is. Not everything needs to be in the Olympics. Right, synchronized swimming?

New York Sports