The UFC has had a long history with the Olympics.
The Olympics is the most respected arena and the highest platform in any sport. Winning Olympic gold is of utmost importance for athletes and, considering the opportunity is presented only once every four years, it is also challenging.
While MMA is not an Olympic sport, many athletes have entered the UFC octagon after making their mark as Olympians. There are four different sports at the Olympics from which athletes have transitioned into MMA. These are freestyle wrestling, Greco-Roman wrestling, judo, and boxing.
Over the years, many athletes have switched to MMA after failing to achieve their dream of competing at the Olympics. However, a few legends have stolen the show in the UFC just as they did at the Games.
Here are five UFC legends who competed at the Olympics:
#5. Mark Schultz
Mark Schultz is an Olympic gold medalist in freestyle wrestling and a former three-time NCAA Division I national champion. After winning Olympic gold in 1984, Schultz entered the Guinness Book of World Records in 1991. He became one of three American wrestlers to win the most world titles, along with Lee Kemp and John Smith.
Mark Schultz joined the UFC in 1998 after almost a decade-long retirement from wrestling. He took on MMA veteran Gary 'Big Daddy' Goodridge at UFC 9 and won via TKO after a 12-minute battle. He later revealed how he signed a UFC contract for a single fight to replace his training partner and Goodridge's opponent, Dave Beneteau. Schultz said:
"When I broke Dave’s hand I took him to the doctor and told him if he couldn’t fight I’d be willing to take his place. Neither one of us expected that to happen however. There was a prefight interview the night before the fights and after the interview was complete Dave showed his hand to the fight doctor and the doc said 'You can’t compete.' Everyone looked at me. I went over Bob Meyrowitz and asked what he thought of me taking Dave’s place. He said 'Wow, that will be great. You’re a gold medalist. When you lose it’ll be even better.'"
The Olympian later revealed that he had always been curious about MMA. He was once a part of a grappling match with the legendary Rickson Gracie that opened him to the world of jiu-jitsu. Impressed by the martial art form, he later began training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Pedro Sauer.