As surfing, skateboarding, climbing, and karate prepare to debut in Tokyo this year, a handful of fast-paced combat sports have now received full Olympic recognition at the 138th IOC session: kickboxing, Muay Thai, and Sambo.
All three sports and their respective federations – the FIAS (International Sambo Federation), World Association of Kickboxing Organizations (WAKO), Muay Thai Federation (MTF) – were approved alongside lacrosse, ice stock, as well as cheerleading. Effectively, this means the aforementioned have met the Olympic Charter requirements, which involves a specified number of events, global support / acclaim, WADA testing, and more.
While this isn’t exactly a guarantee of inclusion for future Olympic Games, it marks a historic development for combat sports and combat sporting athletes the world over. Additionally, as the federations likely won’t make the deadline for 2024, the earliest we can expect to see some hard-hitting action will probably be in Los Angeles come 2028.
In light of the IOC’s latest round of decisions, the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF) is more motivated than ever to gain the same Olympic sport recognition. It’ll take a little more time and a healthy bit of hurdle jumping, but who knows – in time, we could be seeing the likes of Robert Whittaker and Tai Tuivasa representing Australia in the cage (with a very high chance of collecting gold medals).
Kickboxing, Muay Thai, and Sambo joins existing Olympic combat sports such as boxing, wrestling, judo, fencing, taekwondo, and of course, karate.