Combat sports, it seems, have never been more popular. MMA has contributed significantly to this, but other combat sports like wrestling and boxing also pull in ever-bigger crowds.
There’s a lot of psycho-babble about how this reflects a growing blood-lust in society. But the simple truth is that more people are cottoning on to the fact that combat sports matches are one of the most exciting sports events around for the spectator.
The surprising thing is how the rising interest in this form of entertainment is reflected in popular culture, from films all the way to popular slots games online.
We don’t think anyone would argue with the claim that combat sports are the toughest to compete in. But the label covers a huge range of disciplines and styles. So which is the most brutal combat sport, and therefore the toughest sport in the world? Our pick is wrestling, and here’s why.
Most combat sports see the opponents trying to stay out of each other’s way while landing kicks and blows from a distance. Not so wrestling, here the combatants throw their full body weight at each other and try to grapple their opponent to the floor. And in a typical event, wrestlers will fight multiple bouts against multiple opponents. In order to succeed then, a wrestler must have the physical strength to pick up their own body weight and more. And the endurance to do this repeatedly while also being thrown around themselves.
Having physical strength and endurance is not enough on its own to succeed at wrestling. You also need to have the determination to win and the mental strength to keep going. Wrestling holds are designed to immobilise the opponent. Getting caught in one can be very frustrating, not to mention painful. Physical strength and endurance can help the fighter take this, but only mental strength and determination will help them break it.
Keeping in shape for wrestlers is a full-time job. They need to do weight lifting and other exercises to build and maintain strength, running for endurance as well as workouts to preserve flexibility and reflex times. And all this while maintaining the correct weight for their category. Keeping up with such a demanding training schedule without gaining mass shows requires a level of mental and physical fortitude that is unmatched in most other sports. And since there is no “off-season” in wrestling, the need for weight-watching never ends. Wrestlers who do gain extra pounds often resort to drastic crash diets or even dehydration to slim down before an event. These can seriously affect their performance and even have long-term negative consequences for their health.
And let’s not forget that just like in all combat sports, participating in wrestling always carries the risk of serious injury. Taking this and the other reasons we mentioned above into account, we have to conclude that the noble and ancient sport of wrestling is (still) the toughest sport in the world.