-I read an article that you authored in the NY POST a few days ago, and it prompted me to write this short reply. Hope it finds its way to you.
The tone of your article was a familiar one; and the attitude it represented is one that I, and other people involved in Mixed Martial Arts, have viewed as a challenge for a while now. It is an attitude fostered more by ignorance than by knowledge; more by fantasy than by fact, more by a reliance on hearsay than by direct observation. And the challenge is not merely to oppose such factors on their face, but to attempt to present a more comprehensive, realistic, interpretive mental lens through which something new, and innovative, may be viewed and understood. Consider this note my acceptance of that challenge; for the sake of the sport of MMA, and for the sake of sport itself.
I returned from Sydney, Australia in 2000 after winning the Olympic Silver Medal in Greco-Roman Wrestling. It was the culmination of a lifetime of effort, and struggle, and sacrifice. I cannot tell you in words, Mr. Mushnick, how hard I worked and how much I sacrificed to be granted the chance to represent my Country (and, by extension, represent YOU, Mr Mushnick, an American Citizen) on the international stage of competitive athletics. I am certain that a Sports Journalist of your stature had many opportunities to observe, and comment on, the Olympic Games; and I am just as certain that you brought all of your knowledge, and all of your experience, to the task of reporting on the Olympics to your readership I am just as certain that you treated their faith in you, as someone they, your readers, believed in, and trusted, with the greatest possible level of professionalism; and that you shared your insights and knowledge with them.
And I believe in you, Mr. Mushnick. And I trust you as well. Please trust me enough to read on, and allow me to share with you as you have shared with countless sports fans for decades.
Give this idea a moment's consideration. Three recognized sports, all of which are both Olympic sports as well as have established and accepted World Championships, National Competitions, and Scholastic competitive architectures that reach down to grade-school levels, are running events, Swimming events, and Bicycle events.
All three have provided more thrills, and excitement, and drama, than a humble wrestler like myself can ever describe in a few sentences. Remember Mark Spitz? Carl Douglas? Lance Armstrong? Jesse Owens? And so many others I cannot possibly name; all great athletes, competing in great sports. And then someone said.....What if we combine these three great disciplines? What if we create another great sport, one which challenges those who choose to attempt to excel at it, to dare to be great at all three? And so, the Triathlon was born. And you cannot disagree with its legitimacy as a sport, or disregard and disparage its competitors, can you, Mr. Mushnick?
Allow me to mention a few other sports, each as compelling, and legitimate, as the three listed above:
Boxing, Judo, Wrestling, Taekwondo. All Olympic Sports; all with histories, and legacies of triumph and accomplishment that are part of the very social fabric of this, the greatest nation on earth, and virtually any other you choose to name. Need I mention the great Muhammad Ali? Dan Gable? George Foreman waving the American flag? These sports, and the athletes who compete in them, have all been instrumental in the very ability of humanity to define itself.
They all trace their origins back to the very beginnings of human civilization, and like we all share a common ancestor, long lost in the mists of history, so all of these combat sports also share a common ancestor. A great, all-encompassing Sporting Discipline, with dignity, and honor, and compassion, and respect for its competitors and spectators alike. A Combat Sport where individuals could train, and compete, with grace. Mixed Martial Arts is an attempt to connect with that; to rediscover and recreate that great Discipline.
It is, in essence, an experiment in Living Archeology. Imagine, if you will, the excitement you might feel if you were offered the chance to observe the Pyramids being built...or the Great wall of China...or the Inca Temples in Peru. What a gift that would be! To reconnect with that spirit, that Humanity, that was then, and is now. I was honored, and thrilled, to become involved in Mixed Martial Arts as a competitor, trainer, advisor, and coach. I have never regretted the time I took to look into the sport, and see it for what it really was, rather than take someone else's word, or discount it after a brief, flitting glance at something that was outside of what I was used to, beyond the boundaries of my preconceptions, my fixed ideas.
Let me share that with you, Mr. Mushnick. Please join me. Join US. The competitors of today and the heroes of the past. Allow me to be your Virgil, your guide, on a journey of exploration. Come and observe a sport with a history, and a language, that is waiting for you to understand it, and appreciate it. A sport with a safety record that puts sports like boxing and football in the shade; with a concern for its competitors' well-being that will surprise you. Come to our next competition as my guest. Meet the fighters. Watch them train, prepare, and compete. Look in their eyes.
Meet their families and supporters. Hear their stories. We are having our next event in Las Vegas on August 21st. I will personally reserve a ringside seat for you. Meet the Judges. The Referees. The Athletic Commission. They are all waiting for you. They all want to share with you, and tell you their stories of how they became involved, and why they think Mixed Martial Arts is important, and special. And they believe in you, like I do. You are an Elite Journalist with a unique opportunity.
Hope to hear from you.
OLYMPIC SILVER MEDALIST,WORLD MEDALIST and 5x NATIONAL CHAMPION