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Two-time Olympic medalist Kyle Snyder no longer plans to pursue MMA, keeping full focus on wrestling

Wrestling - Olympics: Day 15 Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images

Kyle Snyder has plenty to keep him busy with the sport of wrestling these days and while he remains a fan of mixed martial arts, he no longer plans to pursue a future in fighting.

The two-time Olympic medalist, who is preparing for a supermatch against fellow American J’Den Cox as a special event on Wednesday night, had previously declared that he wanted to test himself in mixed martial arts just after he attended UFC 203 in Cleveland back in 2016.

As much as he still enjoys MMA, Snyder is confident that he’ll only be a wrestler until the time comes to call it a career.

“Yeah that’s right [I’m staying with wrestling],” Snyder confirmed to The Fighter vs. The Writer. “I went to the Stipe Miocic fight and then I want to the Cody ‘No Love’ [Garbrandt] versus [Dominick] Cruz and [Ronda] Rousey vs. Nunes so those were some big fights. It’s like the environment’s just crazy and you’re like I’ve got to do this after you get out of there.

“Now, I just see myself wrestling. I don’t know how long. How ever long God wills. I love it. I’d like to do it for a long time but whatever God wants me to do is what I’ll do. Right now, I’m just focused and getting prepared for this match in March.”

While Snyder isn’t alone with a true passion for wrestling, there was a time not that long ago when athletes would struggle to make any real money, which forced them to look at other interests like MMA to help pay the bills and make a living.

Thanks to companies like Rudis, who have sponsored Snyder for years, along with prize money provided by endowments like the Living the Dream Medal Fund that pays wrestlers for winning medals in the Olympics, there’s actually real money to be made in the sport now.

“I think wrestling as a whole is really growing,” Snyder said. “I think just right before I got on the scene, it was still challenging to just be a wrestler and compete on the international level. You just couldn’t make enough money, especially if you wanted to have a family and stuff like that. All the money was really in coaching and having clubs.

“Now the best guys are making good salaries. USA wrestling is supported by the club that you wrestle in and then obviously these other sponsors have now helped a lot of wrestlers. It’s all good.”

As one of the most successful American wrestlers through the past two Olympic cycles, Snyder has no complaints with the money he’s been able to earn, which in turn has allowed him to continue training full time as he competes on the international level year round.

“Everything’s comfortable,” Snyder said. “Everything’s good. I feel like I have everything I need to compete at the highest level. It’s all good.”

Time is also on Snyder’s side considering he won his Olympic gold medal when he was just 20 years old while still competing on the wrestling team at The Ohio State University.

Now 26, Snyder is a true veteran who doesn’t intend on slowing down any time soon and that’s only going to make the American wrestling program that much stronger with him in it.

“People are wrestling for a longer time,” Snyder said. “Jordan [Burroughs] is going to be 34 soon. [Kyle] Dake is in his 30s. David [Taylor] is in his 30s. Guys are wrestling for longer because there’s more support and you’re able to make more money and provide for your family, especially if you’re winning.

“It’s good. I think we’re going to continue to have a stronger team and continue to win world championships individually and as a team. It’s all going to be good for wrestling.”

Despite Snyder closing the book on any potential fighting career, he still remains a fan of the sport and he definitely plans on watching one of his training partners as he makes the move into MMA.

“I’m looking forward to Bo Nickal’s entrance into pro fighting,” Snyder said about the Penn State wrestler turned fighter. “I think he’s going to be a beast. I think that he’s going to be somebody that can have an immediate impact on his division. That somebody I’m looking forward to coming into the fight world.”

Next up for Snyder is a best two-out-of-three match with an Olympic bronze medalist in Cox, who was supposed to be his main rival at 97kg heading into the 2020 games.

Unfortunately, Cox was not allowed to compete at the U.S. Olympic trials after he arrived late to the official weigh-ins. Now Snyder is excited to face arguably the biggest rival he has inside the American team.

“With me and J’den not being able to wrestle at the Olympic trials and that was a match that was heavily anticipated, people were really looking forward to that so we were able to sign that match up,” Snyder said.

“We’re not going to just wrestle once but we’re going to wrestle in a best two out of three just like we would if it was the Olympic trials.”

A few months ago, Cox got his own small taste of MMA after he was out in Arizona working alongside Olympic gold medalist and retired two-division UFC champion Henry Cejudo while spending some time on the mats with Jon Jones.

Jones, who was a collegiate wrestler in his own right, said he ate “some serious humble pie” after grappling with Cox on the mats.

Snyder wasn’t surprised to hear that’s how those training sessions went because as much as he respects MMA fighters, he knows it’s an entirely different world when trying to compete with a monster like Cox on the mats.

While fellow Olympic medalist Kyle Dake has teased his interest in a grappling match against a legend like Khabib Nurmagomedov if offered the opportunity, Snyder sees what happened when Jones tested himself against Cox to know exactly what would happen if he faced off with anybody from the MMA world.

“Fans would like to see it,” Snyder said. “I just feel like it would be — unless we’re messing around — it would be too easy. Even the best guys [in MMA], once you’re out of the sport, it would be a problem. It would be a problem.”