While few would deny the rise of MMA has renewed interest in competitive amateur wrestling, some at the top of the American wrestling food chain are worried the better wrestlers may supplant an Olympic career for one of riches and fame.
"It's almost catastrophic to the development of wrestlers in our country," said Brands, who spent several years as national resident coach at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. "It hurts, it hurts our country."
Brands and Gable don't have a major problem with the MMA. They just want to see America's best wrestlers represent their country before worrying about their wallets.
But not every wrestler is going to make it to the Olympics, There are only 7 spots every four years.
MMA and UFC combine a variety of fighting techniques, including wrestling, boxing and several martial-art forms. Some of the top attractions in the sport have wrestling backgrounds, including Randy Couture and Brock Lesnar. Couture and Lesnar recently fought at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas Lesnar, a 2000 NCAA champion for Minnesota, won Couture, an NCAA runner-up in 1991 for Oklahoma State, earned both these guys were paid millions for their efforts.
By contrast, 2008 Olympic gold medalist Henry Cejudo made about $85,000 last year, not bad but this was the best wrestler in the world.
"The MMA offers an opportunity for people to make some money," Gable said. "I'm not against it. I'm not a real big fan. We just don't want to lose top wrestlers to the MMA."
Although opportunities like the MMA and UFC were not available when Brands' competitive career ended, he said he was more interested in beating Russians and striving for gold medals than big paychecks.Why?
Gable, Brands and USA Wrestling have nothing to worry about. Paydays like the Lesnar-Couture show are not the norm for beginning fighters. It takes years to make serious money in MMA. So what most wrestlers and MMA athletes aren?t doing this for a payday but rather to have fun and compete?
To each his own and one could have an endless debate about which is more meaningful, although most would say Olympic achievements are paramount. Still, it's an open question and I'm not certain there's truly a correct answer.
But that's neither here nor there. The central issue is whether MMA hurts wrestling? No way, it just gives wrestlers more opportunities. Chasing of wrestling glory and MMA success are not mutually exclusive. While both could be sought after simultaneously, efforts in either endeavor can be temporarily post-poned to focus on the other sport. MMA athletes and wrestler can take time away from either at different seasons and one sport will help the other it?s a matter of mat time and more experience.
n fairness to Gable and Brands, I do not dispute that MMA will at some point intervene in the aims and career trajectory of elite wrestlers that have heretofore carried the torch for American wrestling, But their claims that MMA is somehow catastrophic to wrestling's higher end are grossly exaggerated.
But what does all this have to do with kids or adults having fun training in MMA? Nothing, MMA teaches all the same great principals as wrestling and allows kids to broaden their martial arts knowledge and have fun doing it. Give it a try.