It's no secret that Mixed Martial Arts relies heavily on skills that are learned in wrestling. Watch any MMA or UFC match and you'll see a couple seconds of punching and then a whole lot of 'ground and pound' and grappling for position. It's also no secret that a lot of the best college wrestlers give MMA a shot once their college careers are done, after all there is no professional wrestling league* and the better MMA fighters make good bucks. The question is, would these cream of the crop grapplers gone the Olympic route instead of MMA had there been the same finical incentive? Probably so given the evidence that the Americans only won three medals (one gold) in Beijing, the worst finish since 1968.
Well the wrestling community is attempting to change that.
Gold medalists at the 2012 Summer Games will earn a $250,000 bonus through the Living the Dream Medal Fund, a new incentive program that USA Wrestling hopes will lead to more success at both the Olympics and world championships.
The previous totals were not so impressive.
American athletes already get medal bonuses from the U.S. Olympic Committee -- $25,000 for gold, $15,000 for silver and $10,000 for bronze
They will also get a nice check for winning any medal and for winning the world championships which should add extra incentive for athletes to stay the Olympic course.
In addition to the $250,000 for a gold medal, silver medalists in London would get $50,000 and bronze medalists $25,000. A gold medal at the world championships in September, 2010 or 2011 would be worth $50,000. Silver medalists at worlds would get $25,000, and bronze medalists $15,000.
This is an obvious attempt to sway the best college and freestyle wrestlers to choose the Olympic and World Team path over MMA and UFC. Will it work? Only time will tell but one thing is for sure, while the wrestling community may be small in number they sure are emphatic about their sport.
"It just shows how close-knit the wrestling community is," said Jake Herbert, the U.S. champion at 185 pounds and a first-time world team member. "This sport brings all these amazing people together for a great cause. It's everybody helping everybody."
*No REAL professional wrestling league