From the least violent potential Olympic sport to the most: Mixed martial arts, or MMA, also has a wide international following in countries ranging from the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom to Japan, Thailand, Brazil and Australia. It also recently formed its own international federation, a crucial step on the way to possible Olympic status. But MMA suffers from its violent reputation—Senator John McCain once called it “human cockfighting”—and its no-holds-barred style might not jibe with the Olympic emphasis on safety for athletes, which translates to padded helmets for boxers and heavy padding for taekwondo fighters.
In some ways, MMA would have been more at home in the ancient Olympic Games in Greece, where competitors would battle fiercely—sometimes to the death—in sports like boxing, wrestling and pankration (a kind of ancient MMA that combined techniques of boxing and wrestling and had very few rules). Such violent sports have an even longer Olympic history than some of today’s most popular events, such as swimming or gymnastics. Nevertheless, it will probably be an uphill battle for MMA to score a spot in the Olympic Games.