Leading into the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, news broke out that kickboxing, Muay Thai and sambo were now recognized by the International Olympic Committee. This led to wild speculation about the sports joining the Olympic programme. While that isn’t close to a possibility right now with the programme being picked for the 2024 and 2028 Games, the thought of a new combat sport joining the Olympics is great for fans of combat sports fans.
For the 2020 Olympic Games, fans were treated to karate in the Games for the first time. While karate isn’t slated (unfortunately) for the 2024 Olympics or beyond, it doesn’t mean it won’t in the future. Karate is working it’s way back to the Games and the WKF is determined to get back in 2028. Boxing is even at risk for losing it’s spot, albeit to massive corruption with the AIBA.
But maybe karate doesn’t need to come back. Maybe Muay Thai or sanda or savate either. Hear me out…
The Answer is Kickboxing
Of the three new sports announced before the 2020 Games, kickboxing was the one that piqued my interest. It has a widespread audience, a talent pool and a large organization to back it. Make no mistake about it, the IOC is in it for the money and not the glory like the Ancient Greek version of the Olympics. A huge audience is important for the inclusion of the sport. Kickboxing happens to be wildly popular everywhere except the United States. That may hold it back a little but I have a workaround for that.
To increase viewership, instead of splitting it up into kickboxing, karate and another striking sport, let’s do like the old K-1 days and have style versus style. That’s right, I’m alluding to having Nak Muay, karateka, and kickboxers competing in the same competition at the Olympics. That makes the talent pool even bigger and will increase viewership in the event.
Having the best from the respective sport across any striking ruleset will increase the level of talent and skill in the event, increase the viral moments that fans enjoy, then increase eyeballs on the event and consequently increase revenue. This doesn’t keep out a specific region or guarantee a win for another region like if Muay Thai was added to the Olympics. That would almost be a shoo in for Thailand and take all the fun out of it.
We already see Nak Muay crossing over into kickboxing in Glory, ONE, and other kickboxing promotions around the world. Kickboxing also gets into key markets where the IOC would likely want to increase viewership. Japan is huge with J-kick. Eastern Europe and Morocco are also very big kickboxing areas as well as the middle east. In some of these places, kickboxing is as popular as wrestling is in Russia.
I would even be in favor of dumping taekwondo for kickboxing. The event has become stale since electronic scoring and having another striking sport would be somewhat redundant. Like I suggested moving freestyle wrestling to the Winter Games and adding beach wrestling to the summer games, adding kickboxing to the programme would require balancing for the Games.
While it is just a thought and probably a pipe dream, this style of striking in the Olympics could placate everyone and help make the sport even better. Plus imagine someone medaling in wrestling and kickboxing or MMA. That’s a future star in the making.
In addition to covering the the Olympics for My MMA News, Blaine Henry, the author, also analyzes fights from all combat sports across the globe.
Your friendly neighborhood fight fan. I watch way too many fights and my wife lets me know it.