24 Oct 2012 18:56:46 PM
By Jim Genia
Jeff Blatnick, a two-time Olympian and gold medalist in Greco-Roman wrestling in the 1984 Summer Olympics, died today at age 55 due to complications from heart surgery. It’s a blow to amateur wrestling, as Blatnick was a indefatigable coach, and it’s a blow to MMA, as Blatnick was a pioneer in the sport and widely considered to be one of the best cageside judges in the business. And if you knew the man, and were privileged enough to call him a friend, well, it isn’t so much a blow as it’s an Anderson Silva-esque knee to the solar plexus.
His accomplishments were many and awe-inspiring. His gold medal came after battling back cancer, and he only gave up competing when the cancer returned and he had to undergo chemotherapy. When the UFC came along, Blatnick became its first face of true legitimacy, working in front of the camera as a commentator (a gig he held from UFC 4 to UFC 32) and later, behind the scenes as the organization’s — and really, the sport’s — vanguard in the quest for sanctioning and mainstream acceptance. Prior to the crafting of the Unified Rules, there were the rules that Blatnick helped develop to tame the spectacle. And perhaps most notable of all, there was the name he wanted the sport to adopt: “mixed martial arts.” (Before then, it was called no-holds-barred – a barbaric throwback to the bloodsport that wound up banned throughout most of the country in the mid ’90s).Read More ADD COMMENTS (15) DIGG THIS