Future MMA stars in the Olympics?
Even though mixed martial arts is not in the Olympics yet, there are still some events in the games that are of interest for fight fans. Possibly a future Ultimate Fighting Championship star could come out of Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling or judo. Other sports of interest include amateur boxing and taekwondo.
Amateur wrestlers seem to have the most success when it comes to crossing over to mixed martial arts. Names like Ben Askrin, Daniel Cormier, and Dan Henderson come to mind.
The one wrestling weight class to keep an eye on is the men's 96 kilograms in Olympic freestyle. This is the weight class that is the deepest and meanest. These male behemoths participate in a ballet of violence. There are three former world champions, and even more former world level medalists, all vying to make it to the podium.
Just making it to the U.S. or Canadian wrestling team is an honour in itself, but winning a medal provides extra leverage for an athlete who wants to try their hand at professional MMA. Before there were not a lot of options for the amateur wrestler after their University or Olympic run was over. Some would move on to coaching, others would try their hand at professional rasslin'. With money to be made in MMA, a lot of amateur athletes are starting to be attracted to one day making it to the UFC.
Names to watch that could make the transition to combat sports stardom: Ukraine's Vasyl Lomachenko, who is considered the best pure boxer in the games; Ireland's Katie Taylor is widely considered the best female boxer in the world; Leandro Guilheiro, from Brazil is a huge threat in the 73-kilogram judo division; USA's Kayla Harrison could follow in Ronda Rousey's judo footsteps; Spain's Joel Gonzalez is my pick for MMA stardom as he competes for gold in taekwondo; American YouTube sensation Ellis Coleman is a top contender in Greco-Roman wrestling; and, U.S.'s freestyle wrestler Jordan Burroughs is considered the next big thing, who could enter into MMA after this year's Olympics are over.
A few Canadians to watch: Mary Spencer in boxing; B.C.'s own Matt Gentry in freestyle wrestling; Carolyn Huynh in freestyle wrestling; Tonya Verbeek in freestyle wrestling; Sergio Pessoa in judo; Joliane Melancon in judo; Sebastien Michaud, Francois Coulombe-Fortier and Karine Sergerie in taekwondo.
For all you hardcore MMA fans, make sure to check out the Olympic schedule and follow some of these events. Go Canada!
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