Olympians Dan Henderson, Ronda Rousey react to IOC dropping wrestling

Esther Lin/MMAFighting

Tuesday's stunning announcement of the International Olympic Committee's plan to drop wrestling after 2016 reverberated throughout the mixed martial arts community.

But two fighters on the upcoming UFC 157 in Anaheim, Calif., felt the loss perhaps as much, if not more strongly than anyone else on the roster: Dan Henderson and Ronda Rousey.

The 42-year old Henderson was one of the original crossovers from world-class wrestling to MMA. The former Cal-State Fullerton and Arizona State wrestler appeared in both the 1992 and 1996 Olympics.

Henderson, on a media call to promote his UFC 157 co-main event against Lyoto Machida, expressed his disappointment with the turn of events.

"It's kind of sad that that happened, it's the sport that has been there the longest since the ancient Greeks," Henderson said. "I think I've been hearing that being termed as a possibility for at least 20 years now, so hopefully, it doesn't stay that way, but, it's just unfortunate."

It appears wrestling, which was not only part of the ancient Games, but has been a staple of the modern Olympics since their 1896 revival, has been sacrificed at the altar of revenue-generating television sports, an ironic fate for one of the world's original sporting pastimes.

"I guess it's not as exciting as other sports and doesn't get as much TV coverage, you know, it is what it is," Henderson said. "It's not as exciting as MMA, but I enjoy it and I think it's a great sport. It's just sad to see it go."

Rousey, who defends her UFC bantamweight belt against Liz Carmouche in UFC 157's main event, doesn't have a direct tie to amateur wrestling. But as a judo bronze medalist in the 2008, she has a hard time understanding why the IOC would take the knife to one of the sports most core to their identity.

"I was really surprised when I heard it this morning," Rousey said. "The only reason I can think of is that a few countries are overly dominant. Usually, if they're thinking about taking sports out it's because there are not enough countries competing or one country is winning too much, I think that's what happened to softball. I think it's a shame, this is the oldest sport in all of the Olympics.

Rousey also took a swipe at golf, which was approved by the IOC for full medal-sport status in 2009.

"In the original Olympics they had wrestling in there and I know they're replacing it with golf," she said. "If you don't break a sweat, it's not a sport, its a skill. There's certainly skill in golf, but wrestling is one of the most basic sports. It's one of the root sports in the Olympics and I think they're destroying part of their history by getting rid of it."

As for what this will mean for the wrestling community going forward, Henderson suspects the sport, in the United States at least, will continue to move forward.

"It's hard to say," Henderson said. "I mean in our country, with folkstyle wrestling and that, it will still be there, especially in high schools and colleges. But it's hard to say what's going to happen with the wrestling community. I still think the kids are going to do it based on just trying to get better, or just to learn wrestling for MMA."

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