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Four Olympic Athletes Who Should Transition Into MMA


(The bronze-medalist judoka and silver-medalist freestyle wrestler both have a shot at UFC gold this weekend. Photo via Esther Lin/MMAFighting)

By Nasir Jabbar

UFC 170‘s headline act will feature two Olympic medalists in Ronda Rousey and Sara McMann, and was supposed to feature a third Olympian in Daniel Cormier. Though other Olympic veterans like Henry Cejudo and Yoel Romero have successfully hopped onto the MMA bandwagon, the sport isn’t for everybody. It’s a tough, grueling game that apparently has “no moral values,” according to French judoka Teddy Riner.

At the risk of upsetting another French brick shithouse, Riner’s anti-MMA stance reeks of ignorance. So in honour of UFC 170, I’m going to highlight four Olympians who have a good chance of crossing over. These athletes have either expressed an interest in MMA, supported it, or have an uncanny parallel with another well-known fighter. Lets run them down…

Travis Stevens

Outside of the Olympic games there isn’t a professional avenue for judo players, but MMA provides that opportunity, giving former judokas a chance to use their skill set to compete and make a living. Travis Stevens could be the next crossover star from the world of judo — joining the ranks of Rousey, Hector Lombard, and Yoshiro Akiyama — and he’s already considering MMA as a future career.

The 27-year-old American made his first Olympic appearance at the 2008 Beijing Games (where he placed 9th), and fell short of the podium again in London in 2012, losing out in the bronze medal match. Failing to capture an Olympic medal in two attempts puts Stevens in an awkward position. Does he jump into MMA now or wait around for the next Olympic games?

Stevens is not only a top ten Judoka in his weight division he also regularly trains under Renzo Gracie at his academy in New York, and more impressively is a black-belt in jiu-jitsu under grappling guru John Danaher. A double black belt is a testament to Stevens’ incredible ground game, which provides the perfect base to enter MMA.

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