If equestrian, sailing and race walking can be Olympic sports, then mixed martial arts is absolutely worthy of a spot at the Games.The popularity of MMA has steadily increased over the past decade and it is slowly but surely entering the mainstream sports consciousness. This has many people talking about whether MMA should be an Olympic sport.Some have argued that MMA, a sport still in its relative infancy, is too violent and bloody a spectacle to be at the Games.But in ancient Olympic competitions during the Greco-Roman era, Pankration -- a form of fighting that involved grappling and striking -- was introduced.Pankration was virtually a no-holds barred form of fighting, but present-day MMA is infinitely different as it is statistically one of the safest professional sports in terms of serious, long-term injuries.Yes, there is often bloodshed in MMA and some Olympic purists aren't fond of the aggression of it, but combat sports such boxing, taekwondo, judo and both freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling are popular Olympic sports.Various cycling, swimming and running events are all in the Olympics and so is triathlon, which comprises all three. MMA is a mixture of all the Olympic combat sports plus jiu-jitsu and various kickboxing techniques.If MMA was to be included in the Olympics, it would be interesting to see which route it would take.It would go one of two ways: either the direction of basketball, hockey and tennis, and allow professional athletes to compete, or it would follow in the footsteps of Olympic-style boxing where only amateurs are allowed.Fans would love to see the absolute best in the world -- the stars of the Ultimate Fighting Championship and other top MMA promotions -- compete against one another for gold medals instead of gold championship belts. But the far more likely scenario would be a strictly amateur competition.UFC president Dana White has repeatedly said in the past that he believes MMA should be an Olympic sport and wants to see it there. If it was, however, White likely wouldn't want his fighters taking time away from the UFC, risking injury and competing at the Olympics.That's why some National Hockey League executives are hesitant to allow NHLers to participate in the Games. It takes away from the NHL regular season and the league wants to protect its product and players.Although MMA and the Olympics have no official connection, some of the best athletes currently competing in MMA have Olympic roots.Ronda Rousey, who is becoming the face of women's MMA won a bronze medal in judo at The Beijing 2008 Games and is one of a long list of judokas that have transitioned to MMA.Satoshi Ishii was the +100kg gold medalist in judo at The 2008 Games and in 2009 he made his MMA debut. UFC middleweight Hector Lombard and No. 1 Bellator lightweight contender Rick Hawn are also Olympic judo veterans.There is a long list of wrestlers that have succeeded in both venues as well. Strikeforce heavyweight Grand Prix champion Daniel Cormier was the captain of the United States men's wrestling team; successful MMA veteran Matt Lindland won a silver medal at The Sydney 2000 Games; and Dan Henderson has gone on to become one of the greatest MMA fighters of all-time after representing the U.S. at the 1992 and 1996 Games.It wouldn't be a surprise in the least if several judokas or wrestlers from the Games of the XXX Olympiad one day take up MMA and eventually make it to the UFC.Much akin to Olympic boxing, Olympic MMA could work as a great feeder system for professional MMA as well as a way to develop fighters who didn't want to turn pro right away.Safety would not be an issue because the International Olympic Committee would take all the precautions necessary by having the athletes wear shin guards, gloves with extra padding, head gear, mouth guards, and not allowing elbows to the head, just like amateur MMA.Although it's unlikely MMA will be introduced to the Olympics anytime soon, those in power should take a serious look at the sport and give it legitimate consideration.The 2016 Games take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and MMA has become the second-most popular sport in that country, behind only soccer.
Yes, it is a complicated process to get a sport approved for Olympic competition, but why not at least give MMA a trial session as a demonstration sport in 2016 or at a future Games?Solo synchronized swimming, motorboating, and pigeon racing have all been Olympic events in the past. That sentence alone should solve the argument of whether the IOC should give MMA a chance.The Olympics are a platform to showcase the best athletes in the world and mixed martial artists are unquestionably some of the most-dedicated and well-conditioned in the world.MMA is truly an international sport and a place on the largest platform in all of sports would be a well-deserved sign of approval for MMA on a global level.