From the desk of NJSACB honcho Nick Lembo:
What You Should Know About Jeff
On Wednesday, October 24, 2012, the MMA community
lost one of the sport's founding fathers. He was 55. He is survived by his wife
Lori, his daughter Niki, and his son Ian.
Jeff was a well regarded
professional MMA judge and judge trainer with the New Jersey ACB as well as a
licensed referee here.
He had judged UFC and other major events in
Calgary, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mohegan Sun, Nebraska, New
Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Toronto and Virginia.
But there was so
much more, whenever you say the words "mixed martial arts", think of Jeff
Blatnick. He is the person who coined that term. He explained on a broadcast
that the "athletes were mixing the martial arts.". He would urge people to stop
calling the sport No Holds Barred, in order to help it grow and gain
He served as a commentator for 29 UFC events (UFC 4- UFC
32). He was named Commissioner of the UFC at UFC 17.
the UFC's Mixed Martial Arts Council (MMAC) manual while serving as that body’s
chair. He was a critical party involved with the drafting of the sport's unified
He was a tireless advocate attempting to get MMA legalized in
his home state of New York, quietly meeting with legislators and those with
Born in Niskayuna, New York, Blatnick became a high school
wrestling champion in 1975. He never wrestled prior to being convinced to start
by his high school coach who needed a heavyweight in 1973.
earned a pair of NCAA Division II wrestling titles in 1978 and 1979 while
attending Springfield College in Massachusetts. He was a three time
All-American. At that time, Division II athletes could advance to Division I
nationals, Blatnick placed third and sixth in two visits
Blatnick was the 1980 and 1981 AAU super heavyweight wrestling
He was a three time national champion in Greco-Roman, won
eight Greco-Roman All-American awards, two World Cup medals, and two Freestlye
Blatnick made the 1980 Olympic Wrestling
team but didn't compete due to the United States’ boycott of those Games held
In 1982, Jeff was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He
said, "if you can win in adversity, you can win anywhere."
fighting radiation treatments and having both his spleen and appendix removed,
he battled through to make the 1984 Olympic wrestling team and win the gold
medal. The first Gold medal for an American heavyweight in Greco-Roman
was chosen by his teammates as the representative to carry the American flag at
the closing of the 1984 Olympic ceremonies.
Of that, Jeff stated, "If
I didn't have cancer, nobody would know who I was, not a lot of wrestlers make
Blatnick never set out to be an Olympian, it was simply
about giving his best every time he stepped on the mat.
He stated "I
learn to win by learning to lose, that means not afraid of
Blatnick retired from wrestling in 1988 after a second bout
He served on USA Wrestling's Board of
He continued on as a coach of the Burnt Hills High School
wrestling team and the Journeyman wrestling club.
He worked as a
wrestling analyst for NBC for the 1988, 1992, 1996 and 2000 Olympics. He also
was a commentator for ESPN's coverage of the NCAA Division 1 wrestling
He was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame
He was appointed by President Clinton to the President's
Council on Fitness and Sport at a Rose Garden Ceremony.
He was also
an honorary coach with the New York Special Olympics and very active with the
American Cancer Society.