Jeff Blatnick, the 1984 Olympic gold medalist in wrestling and MMA pioneer, died yesterday from complications after heart surgery. Jeff was a long time commentator for the UFC, and he was instrumental in helping to establish the unified rules of MMA, which enabled the sport to become sanctioned in most states. Jeff was also a licensed judge and referee in New Jersey, and it was always a pleasure to work with him at shows there.
Amazingly, Jeff won his Olympic gold medal, after having his spleen and appendix removed due to cancer, which shows you how determined and talented he was. He went on to commentate the 1988 Olympic games for NBC before becoming a major figure in the new sport of MMA.
I first met Jeff at the Kimbo-Mercer event in 2007, where I interviewed him using a loaf of French bread as microphone. He looked at me like I was crazy, but graciously allowed the interview to take place. After that, every time I'd see him, he'd ask me where my loaf of bread was. He was a good sport and a good friend and will be sorely missed.
Rest in Peace, Jeff Blatnick.