Sad news in both the MMA and amateur wrestling realms today as news has spread that Jeff Blatnick has passed away. Blatnick was one of the better judges in the MMA world and a great high school wrestling coach at Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School in Burnt Hills, NY. The 1984 Olympic gold medalist died after complications arose during heart surgery.
Blatnick worked for the UFC for several years as a commentator from 1994 to 2001, eventually being named commissioner of the organization in 1998. Blatnick worked hard to update the rules of MMA to what we know it as today. Blatnick as a licensed as both a referee and a judge, even writing the Mixed Martial Arts Council Manual.
The Springfield College product won the 1984 Olympic gold medal despite battling Hodgkin’s Lymphoma – a cancer that attacks the white blood cells – after being diagnosed in 1982. Blatnick would have to have his spleen and appendix removed due to the disease. Blatnick, along with teammate Steve Fraser, became the first Americans to win gold in Greco-Roman wrestling at the Los Angeles games. The super heavyweight would retire after battling cancer for a second time and receiving chemotherapy. Blatnick would then serve as a commentator for the 1988 Olympic games, as well as for many of the following Olympics and NCAA wrestling tournaments.
In recent years, Blatnick served as volunteer wrestling coach and motivational speaker. He leaves behind a wife, son, and daughter in Clifton Park, New York. He was 55.
Video is a profile of Blatnick’s Olympic Experience by WNYT’s Benita Zahn