Ranking the active Olympic UFC fighters
The first Olympic games were held in Olympia, Greece during the 8th century BC. It was during the 18th Olympic games, held in 708 BC, that wrestling was first introduced. It was during the 23rd games that boxing was added, and the 33rd would see the addition of Pankration in 648 BC. Pankration was essentially Mixed Martial Arts in its earliest form. Combatants used wrestling, boxing, kicks, chokes, and throws in an attempt to “submit” an opponent or gain an advantage.
Today, martial arts still play a major role in the modern Olympics. Boxing and wrestling are still contested, along with Judo, Tae Kwon Do, various styles of wrestling, and the most recent addition: Karate, which will be making its debut during the 2020 games. Several Olympic martial artists have attempted to make the move to MMA once they reach the end of their Olympic careers, some have gone on to be champions, while others have discovered that things can be different when adding in techniques from various martial arts. We’re going to list the current Olympians in the UFC, based off of the success they have had as UFC fighters, and where they stand in the current landscape of the promotion.
#8. Michel Batista
Olympic Credentials: Freestyle Wrestling, 2012 (13th) and 2008 (4th)
UFC Credentials: Ultimate Fighter competitor
Michel Batista has a bit of an interesting story from his Olympic career. He received a first-round bye during the 2008 Olympics after his opponent, Daniel Cormier, was forced to withdraw due to weight cutting issues… hopefully, that sounds familiar because if not you aren’t paying attention. It remains to be seen what Batista does throughout the remainder of his UFC career, but he has a great pedigree to help him along his way.
#7. Arjan Bhullar
Olympic Credentials: Freestyle Wrestling, 2012 (13th)
Arjan Bhullar is a lot of things. He’s the first Sikh fighter to ever compete in the UFC, something he is proud of. He is also a former Olympian, who represented Canada in the 2012 Olympics. Unlike most of the fighters on this list, Bhullar is more of a prospect than a contender, but he is well on his way after a successful start to his UFC career.
#6. Hector Lombard
Olympic Credentials: Judo, 2000 (9th)
Hector Lombard has fallen on rough times, but he was once a feared member of the middleweight and welterweight divisions. Lombard dominated Bellator before coming to the UFC, and while his career has had its ups and downs, he remains one of the more intimidating forces in the UFC today.
#5. Ben Askren
Olympic Credentials: Freestyle Wrestling, 2008 (6th)
Ben Askren is just 1-0 in the UFC so far, but his one win, controversial as it was, did come against former division champion Robbie Lawler. Overall Askren has put together a stellar MMA career, winning multiple world championships along the way. But in terms of the UFC, Askren has a lot of work to do compared to some of his fellow Olympians.
#4. Sara McMann
Olympic Credentials: Freestyle Wrestling, 2004 (Silver Medal)
UFC Credentials: UFC Title Challenger
Sarah McMann is the highest-ranking female Olympian in the UFC today. The highlight of her UFC career might be the lead up to her title bout with Rousey, an Olympian vs Olympian match up. McMann was viewed as a real challenger for Rousey. Though she came up short, she has proven herself to be a durable member of the roster and a division mainstay.
#3. Yoel Romero
Olympic Credentials: Freestyle Wrestling, 2000 (Silver Medal) and 2004 (4th)
UFC Credentials: Multiple time UFC Title Challenger if not for missing weight in 2 of 3 title bouts. Missed out on winning Interim Championship due to missing weight against Luke Rockhold.
Yoel Romero just might be the scariest man in MMA, but before gracing the cage he was a fierce competitor on the mats. Romero competed for Cuba in the ’90s and early ’00s and managed to earn wins over several notable wrestlers as well as his Silver Medal in 2000. After transitioning to MMA, Romero quickly became a force and has come very close to becoming a World Champion on multiple occasions. But he’s been his own worst enemy at times, and if not for a few weight issues he could be a bit higher on this list, as well as a Champion.
#2. Henry Cejudo
Olympic Credentials: Freestyle Wrestling, 2008 (Gold Medal)
UFC Credentials: UFC Flyweight Champion
Henry Cejudo is a Gold Medalist, just in case you didn’t know. He also happens to be the UFC flyweight champion, as well as the next man up for a shot at the bantamweight championship. He holds notable wins over Demetrious Johnson and TJ Dillashaw, and if he can defeat Marlon Moraes and win the bantamweight title, he will have an argument for being number one on this list.
#1. Daniel Cormier
Olympic Credentials: Freestyle Wrestling, 2004 (4th) and 2008 (Pulled from Competition)
UFC Credentials: UFC Light-heavyweight Champion, UFC Heavyweight Champion
Daniel Cormier’s Olympic story is well known. He finished 4th in 2004 and returned in 2008 as a team captain, poised to make a run for the gold. Cormier was a highly accomplished freestyle wrestler, with several Pan Am gold medals, and a Bronze medal at the 2007 World Championships on his resume, but ultimately his own body failed him. During weight cuts for the 2008 games, Cormier suffered kidney failure due to excessive cutting and was forced to withdraw. His MMA career would begin the following year. Perhaps motived by his failure in the 08’ games, Cormier burst onto the MMA scene with a vengeance and hasn’t looked back since. He is a former Strikeforce Grand Prix winner, as well as a former UFC light heavyweight champion, and the current UFC heavyweight champion. While he didn’t quite reach the pinnacle in wrestling, he is without a doubt the most accomplished Olympian competing in the UFC today.