April 11 - Wrestling has formed an alliance with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in its campaign to help preserve its place on the Olympic programme after Rio 2016, it was announced today.
The Committee to Preserve Olympic Wrestling (CPOW) and USA Wrestling has aligned with the UFC, largest mixed martial arts promotion company in the world, after meeting with its President Dana White.
"I've met with a lot of top guys in wrestling," said White.
"I met with them last Tuesday (April 9), and the UFC's joining the fight to help save Olympic wrestling."
The UFC's popualrity has soared since the first event was held in Denver in 1993 and has now expanded into over 130 international markets.
Wrestling has long been a significant thread of the fabric of mixed martial arts and the UFC, with fighters like Randy Couture, Chuck Liddell, Matt Hughes, Dan Henderson and Sara McMann achieving success in UFC after beginnings in wrestling.
White has also backed the proposals by FILA, the world governing body, to amend some of the rules in a bid to help keep its place in the Olympics.
"[Wrestling] needs to be more fan-friendly, it needs to be more exciting," he said.
"Not just Olympic wrestling, but colleges are dropping wrestling now.
"High schools have been dropping wrestling...I've personally funded tons of wrestling programmes, and the UFC has funded tons of wrestling programmes for high school kids.
"These guys are going out and fighting the fight, and whatever they need from me and what I think I could do, [I'll do]."
It is part of the growing campaign to keep wrestling in the Olympics after the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) ruling Executive Board controversially recommended in February that it should be dropped after Rio 2016.
A worldwide effort has been launched by FILA, the international wrestling federation, and all of the 177 nations which participate in wrestling, to retain wrestling as an Olympic sport, inclduding declaring next May as "World Wrestling Month".
"We met with Dana and were very encouraged and touched by his genuine support for our sport and our effort to remain in the Olympics," said CPOW chairman Bill Scherr.
"Many don't know this but he has done a great deal behind the scenes for wrestling for years and we owe him our allegiance and gratitude."
Wrestling, along with the seven sports bidding to get on the Olympic programme in 2020 - baseball-softball, climbing, karate, roller sports squash, wakeboarding and wushu - are due to give a presentation to the IOC Executive Board in St Petersburg on May 29.
After that the IOC is expected to recommend three sports to go forward to the Session in Buenos Aires on September 9, where the full membership will vote on which one should be included at the 2020 Olympics.
"We are not sure of the exact form and scope ultimately of our relationship with the UFC", relayed CPOW member and NCAA champion wrestler Tommy Rowlands.
"We know that we will accept whatever assistance is offered and will work with Dana and the UFC to develop a working partnership going forward. "
"For now, we are thrilled that he is involved and on our side."
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