The Opening Ceremony for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio are tonight, and it is a great night for sports. Outside of all the contentious points surrounding these Summer Games, such as security issues, problems with the water, and construction delays, just to name a few, the Olympics have always been a great moment for the world coming together to celebrate the best athletic achievements.
Though MMA is not in the Olympics, there has been a long history of athletes who have competed in the Games and then transitioned to the sport. Some of the best fighters to have stepped foot in the cage or Octagon have experience on the global stage and many even have medals to prove it. Here is a list of the Olympians who went on the have the best careers in MMA.
6. Sara McMann
McMann rose to prominence in the world of combat sports by being a world-class wrestler. She eventually earned a spot on Team USA and competed at the 2004 Olympic Games and won the silver medal that year. She also took home gold in the Pan American Games in both 2003 and 2007. McMann transitioned to MMA and fought her first professional fight in 2011. She has fought in multiple promotions, including Invicta FC and the UFC. Over her five year career she has compiled a 9-3 record and competed for the UFC Bantamweight Championship. Her most recent win against Jessica Eye shows that she can still compete at the highest level in the sport.
5. Yoel Romero
Romero has earned multiple medals at the Olympics and the World Wrestling Championships over his eight-year career. During that time, he had a 34-11 record in the sport, but then transitioned to MMA in 2009. Romero has been nearly perfect inside the cage, only losing once in 2011. He is 7-0 in the UFC and once he gets his first fight following his suspension, he could easily be in title contention in the middleweight division.
4. Dan Henderson
Henderson competed in Greco-Roman wrestling prior to his time with MMA. He medaled in the Pan American Games, the Pan American Championships and the World Cup of Wrestling. During his run in the Olympics, he placed 10th and 12th at the 1992 and 1996 Summer Games, respectively. After transitioning to MMA, he has been a force to be reckoned with. He is 32-14 in his career, has won titles with Pride and Strikeforce, and has competed for UFC belts. His power combined with his wrestling background makes him a dangerous opponent for anyone and has allowed him to fight into his 40s.
3. Mark Coleman
When Coleman competed in the 1992 Games, he placed seventh in freestyle wrestling. He also won the Pan American Championships three times and won gold at the Pan American Games as well. When he began his MMA career in 1996, he got off to a tremendous start, winning his first six fights and the UFC Heavyweight Championship. After multiple UFC tournament wins, he transitioned to other promotions and eventually became a champion in Pride. He earned a spot in the UFC Hall of Fame and is one of the greatest champions in the history of the sport.
2. Daniel Cormier
Cormier had a long background in wrestling, competing at the highest level through much of the 2000s. He placed fourth in the 2004 Olympics, but was pulled from the 2008 Sumer Games after kidney failure. He has won the Pan American Games and the Pan American Championships. Cormier has competed in MMA since 2009 in both the heavyweight and light heavyweight. His only loss of his career came against arguably the greatest MMA fighter in history, Jon Jones , and is the current 205-pound champion. His career is not over, and it is already one of the best we have seen in the sport.
1. Ronda Rousey
Though Rousey has turned away from the sport in the last year, her reign in MMA was unparalleled to any other fighter. A bronze medalist in judo, Rousey started her MMA career with three wins in amateur fights. Once she began fighting at the professional level, she worked her armbar into one of the most reliable tools in any MMA fighter's arsenal, securing nine wins with the technique. She was the first women's bantamweight champion in UFC history and had six title defenses before losing to Holly Holm last year. Though she is no longer the champ, her run will go down as one of the best in UFC history.