Remembering A Pioneer: Jeff Blatnick Passes At 55 Years Old | UFC NEWS

October 24, 2012 4:20 pm by George Deutsch

Remembering Olympic Gold Medalist and MMA Pioneer Jeff Blatnick

The MMA world lost an icon today. Jeff Blatnick — former UFC commentator, MMA judge and referee — died earlier today of complications from open-heart surgery, according to multiple sources. He was 55 years old.

To many fans, Blatnick will be remembered as a pioneer of MMA’s early days, lending credibility to a sport that was fledgling at the time. He worked as a broadcast analyst and advisor in the UFC from 1994 to 2001, even helping develop the modern unified rules used in the sport today. Blatnick was an advocate for legalizing mixed martial arts competition throughout the U.S. He worked as a judge in Bellator as recently as last month.

Blatnick was a gifted wrestler who won Olympic gold in men’s Greco-Roman wrestling at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic games as a super heavyweight. He may very well have taken gold at the 1980 Olympic games in Moscow as well, had the United States not boycotted the event in protest of the Soviet war in Afghanistan.

Blatnick was also a cancer survivor who overcame Hodgkin’s Disease. He channeled his experiences wrestling and battling cancer into motivational speaking presentations he gave throughout his native New York and elsewhere, spreading a message of overcoming adversity. Blatnick’s hometown of Niskayuna, New York, even named a park in his honor, “Jeff Blatnick Park.”

Though many young fighters and MMA fans today might not be familiar with Blatnick, he was truly a class act and elder statesman of the sport. Every fighter who steps inside a cage and every fan who watches an MMA event is, in many ways, celebrating Blatnick’s legacy and accomplishments. He will truly be missed.

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