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During UFC 159, UFC commentator Joe Rogan interviewed Tommy Rowlands, a former world team member for USA Wrestling and a two-time national champion for Ohio State. Rowlands talked about wrestling's big role in mixed martial arts and how the UFC was supporting the effort to keep Olympic wrestling alive. The sport, a mainstay of the Olympics since the ancient games, was not kept as a core sport for the 2020 Olympics and will have to fight to keep its spot after the 2016 Olympics.
The UFC and the Committee to Preserve Olympic Wrestling announced the start of a partnership weeks ago, and Rowlands' appearance was part of that partnership. It turns out the whole discussion between the two groups started after a terse Twitter conversation between Rowlands and UFC president Dana White.
Rowlands told Cagewriter he read the headline of a story that indicated White viewed the Olympics dropping wrestling as an opportunity. He tweeted White his disgust with this view, and White responded.
@tommyrowlands how is it an OP for me if it goes away!!! U have no idea what I have done for wrestling over the last 13 years.
— Dana White (@danawhite) February 15, 2013
This tense conversation turned as White and Rowlands decided to speak, and finished with this.
— Dana White (@danawhite) February 21, 2013
"For me to say I regretted it would be a lie, when I thought was I saw wrestling was boring, I felt the need to defend my sport," Rowlands said.
"He admitted he was emotional, he was able to say I would never dis wrestling. I said if you’re up for it, give me a call and we can talk."
Rowlands, White and members from CPOW met a week later in Las Vegas to discuss the ways they can support each other. Rowlands appearance on the UFC 159 telecast was the first step. Since the relationship is new, they are still developing their next steps.
Bill Scherr, the chairman of CPOW, said White's open relationship with MMA fans is what allowed this relationship to begin.
"To his credit, Dana has an open door policy with fans, and Tommy was able to walk right through," Scherr said. "We're still figuring out what we can offer them and what we can learn from them."