Wrestling has been part of the Olympics since 708 BC. A date like that is hard to comprehend, but that is indeed when it first appeared in the ancient Olympics. In February, however, the International Olympic Committee decided it would be in the best interest of the Olympics to cut wrestling from its roster of games. The decision means that the Summer Games in Rio will be the last time we see wrestling in the Olympic venue.

How could a sport with such history be removed from the Olympics? In a word: money.

You see, people aren’t tuning into the Olympics to watch wrestling. It has become one of the sports that fans no longer make an effort to seek out. They don’t look for when or where to watch it. Although the sport seems like it would be an easy one to understand, it isn’t. As far as glamour and action, the sport doesn’t have much of that either—at least not to the casual fan. Wrestling doesn’t bring in ratings to the Olympics and consequently there isn’t much for the television networks to capitalize on. NBC, which paid over $4 billion to broadcast the Olympics through 2020, surely had some input with the IOC on which sports should be kept and which ones should be given the ax.

It’s the classic story of not appreciating what you have until it’s gone. With wrestling on the chopping block, we saw an initial backlash to the decision by those who have a connection to the sport. Anybody who has ever wrestled or been around wrestling knows how vital the sport is and the life lessons it can teach those growing up. Unfortunately, those lessons don’t help out the bottom line when it comes to revenue.

Many still consider wrestling to be the fundamental foundation of mixed martial arts. The UFC, the biggest MMA promotion in the sport, should do something to help save wrestling in the Olympics. Sure, we saw fighters voice their displeasure through Twitter and other social media outlets, but aside from the fundraising that the UFC has stated it will take part in, there are specific things the UFC and its fighters can do to help turn wrestling into a more popular sport.

Everyone within the UFC should know how important wrestling exposure is to kids. With MMA exploding into the mainstream, we now see more kids under the age of 10 participating in MMA classes around the world than ever before. Creating a marketing promotion to highlight the importance of wrestling and broadcasting it during commercial breaks on every channel they have on the barrage of Fox networks is a starting point. Prominent fighters in the sport known for their wrestling should make a plea of sorts in a 30-second commercial spot explaining what would happen if the sport lost its biggest platform in the Olympics. The commercial would show a montage of kids wrestling, then dissolve into a group of high school wrestlers, highlighting what the sport is all about. Those high school wrestlers then join the college ranks and vie for a national championship. At the end of the commercial spot, somebody such as Georges St-Pierre can read a slogan that a marketing genius at the UFC can come up with to strike a chord with the audience.

In addition to taking out commercial time, the UFC should also play a major role in getting a dialogue going with the IOC. Perhaps the UFC could do some sort of cross-marketing for the Olympic games on its pay-per-view broadcasts in an effort for the IOC to at least postpone dropping wrestling. Of course, giving a shoutout to the Olympics on a pay-per-view isn’t going to be enough to sway an entire committee to reverse its course of action, but it would be a symbolic gesture of getting the UFC involved with this.

Exposure is the key to the growth of anything, and it wouldn’t hurt for the UFC to sponsor local tournaments around the world to give the sport a little more help in that area. In addition to sponsoring events on a local level, the organization may also be able to lend a helping hand to the NCAA Championships, and at the very least put those aforementioned commercial spots on when those events are broadcast on a network such as ESPN.

The underlying meaning of these suggestions is that a company as strong as the UFC needs to get involved with saving the foundation of MMA. There are kids and teens all over the world that now see their potential dream of being an Olympian being taken away, and it is for a reason they have absolutely no control over. By all accounts, it would barely put a dent in the UFC’s wallet to get a campaign together and utilize its voice to help wrestling stay relevant and a part of the Olympics.

The door is knocking for the UFC to gain positive headlines and help a dying sport, a sport very integral to the history of MMA. But will the promotion answer?

Photo: Olympic Rings (Wikipedia)

About The Author

Joe Chacon
Staff Writer

Joe Chacon is a Southern California writer that has also spent time as a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report, as well as a Staff Writer for Operation Sports. Joe has a passion for the sport of MMA, as well as most other sports.