MMA Good For Wrestling?

Ben Askren - MMA

So as I was writing last week procrastinating, I checked a discussion on Flo out. Is MMA good for wrestling? Different people responded in various ways. This is something that I have given much thought since my brother has switched to MMA and my folk-style wrestling career has recently ended. I think there is a big problem with this question. The biggest being that it is ambiguous. Because of the US’s unique situation, there are two different questions that really should be asked. Is MMA good for folk-style wrestling? Yes. Is MMA good for freestyle wrestling? No.

All sorts of things are stated, such as MMA is good for wrestling because now these wrestlers have an outlet after wrestling. While I do certainly agree with this statement, the truth is that means MMA is good for wrestlers and mainly former folk-style wrestlers, not for wrestling. With that said my next question is a little off, but is freestyle good for wrestling? With how our nation is set up that seems to be the real problem we’re facing.

My point is that freestyle is a different sport. Yes our folk-style wrestlers, like MMA do the best transitioning to freestyle, but it is an outlet for our folk-style wrestlers to continue… It is not the same sport. Taking an objective viewpoint transitioning to freestyle provides no benefit; not educationally nor financially. The more important question this leads me to… What is the main objective of USA wrestling?

I ask this in all sincerity because I see two potential missions. Both are great goals, but I wonder if they are currently mutually exclusive. Is their goal to promote the growth of our great sport or is it to develop an environment where we will have more Olympic and world champions?

It seems to me and I could be wrong, but numbers in wrestling have been larger and larger. I hear the growth isn’t proportional to growth in other sports, but it’s growing nonetheless. Our population that wrestles freestyle doesn’t seem to be growing though and USA wrestling doesn’t seem to be pushing the creation of more freestyle tournaments. It does however have more and more folk-style tournaments sanctioned every year later and later into the off-season of folk-style.

Folk-style wrestling in the off-season has sky rocketed because kids don’t want to learn a second sport. Then these kids who wrestle folk-style year round go to college, wrestle and then after they win their folk-style world championship they have reached their pinnacle. Being that we are the only nation to compete in folk-style that is essentially what it is. Then the choice to change to another sport to continue similar wrestling must be made.

So is USA wrestling’s goal to win Olympic and world titles? Or is their quest to grow wrestling as a sport in the United States? This is where our problem lies… It doesn’t seem to be clear. They can achieve the growth of wrestling as a sport in the US while failing at the second. Moreover if they aren’t careful of which style our sport grows in then their goals would become mutually exclusive. If folk-style is the sport of the youth, it will also soon be the sport of the elders. If USA wrestling really wants to win Olympic and world titles then it may have to fail at the former to achieve the latter. It would have to not sanction many folk-style events and make mandatory freestyle tournaments be held. I understand that USA wrestling is a business and that it must survive. This makes it a whole heck of a lot more difficult than I make it out to be. If it went under then it would really be hard for any wrestling in our nation to exist.

All in all MMA is good for wrestling with it’s promotion of the sport and publicizing of our wrestlers and wrestling as a martial art. I run into many people learning wrestling for that reason, young and old. Is MMA good for freestyle and the truth that it isn’t there is absolutely no benefit.

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