From the website for The Oklahoman newspaper, thanks to a link from Intermat
Mon July 21, 2008
Will MMA hurt Olympic wrestling?
Former Oklahoma State wrestler Daniel Cormier says he thinks mixed martial arts is a great opportunity for wrestlers but says he wanted to follow his dream of being an Olympian. Cormier made the Olympic wrestling team for the second time and will compete for the United States in Beijing next month. Associated Press
After finishing a successful wrestling career at Oklahoma State, he received calls from folks involved with what was then a fledgling sport. They wanted him to try the no-holds-barred fighting style. They wanted to see if he'd be another wrestler who excelled in it.
Cormier could've gone into MMA.
He's going to the Olympics instead.
He recently made the Olympic wrestling team for the second time and will represent the U.S. next month in Beijing.
"I had a dream to be an Olympian,? Cormier said. "I love to wrestle, and I've been lucky enough to be able to do it for eight years after college.
"Make no mistake ? I think MMA's great. It's a good opportunity for wrestlers, but I think you should see your dream through.?
But will wrestlers always do that?
The dream of Olympic glory is clouded nowadays by the prospect of MMA fame. The sport and its major league, Ultimate Fighting Championship, are surging in popularity in America.
Its fighters are stars, and its stars are millionaires.
Wrestling has provided a strong base for many of UFC's best, and kids who dream of becoming MMA stars are taking up wrestling. That's good news for a sport that has struggled; the declining number of college programs has affected participation in youth leagues and prep programs.
MMA might help heal amateur wrestling in America.
It might just cripple Olympic wrestling, too.
"It's going to impact wrestling,? said Ted Ehrhardt. "I don't know if I'd use the word ?hurt,' but it's going to impact.?
His management group, Dallas-based Team Takedown, identifies potential wrestlers-turned-fighters, then oversees their development and training. Among his clients are former OSU standouts Johny Hendricks and Jake Rosholt.
They were more accomplished than Cormier when he finished college, each having won multiple individual national championships, but they chose the cage instead of the mat.
Hendricks wishes his decision could've been different. This is a guy, after all, who has a passion for wrestling. He became the most hated college wrestler in the country a few years back because of his rebel attitude. He said he'd live with the animosity, though, if his antics helped grow the sport.
Hendricks seemed like a prime candidate for Olympic wrestling.
He chose mixed martial arts instead.
Last fall, before his MMA debut, Hendricks admitted that he wanted to stay in wrestling but felt an obligation to his family. Chasing the Olympic dream is often a financial struggle, and being an MMA fighter came with a signed contract and financial stability.
"Football players are making all this money. Basketball players are making all this money,? Hendricks said then. "Soccer's making more money than we do.
"Every wrestler sees this as an opportunity to make money.?
Like Hendricks, Cormier knew his bank account would likely look better if he chose mixed martial arts. He also knew that if he walked away from wrestling after college, he would never realize his full potential because most wrestlers peak in their mid- to late-20s.
Cormier made his first Olympic team as a 25-year-old. Now as a 29-year-old, he will head to Beijing as one of the favorites at in the 96-kilogram weight class.
Cormier doesn't question the decision he made after college.
"It's an honor to have an opportunity to represent our country,? he said.
But will wrestlers with Olympic potential be swayed by MMA fame?
"I disagree with guys cutting their careers short to chase MMA,? Cormier said. "I think when you look back on it ... you're going to look back and say, ?You know what? I probably should've followed my dream and tried to make an Olympic team.'?
It's the red, white and blue of Olympic wrestling versus the green of mixed martial arts.
It promises to be quite a battle.