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Olympic champ David Taylor says ‘door is open’ for move to MMA; Daniel Cormier tells him ‘stick to wrestling’

David Taylor stands just days away from competing for a spot on the 2024 U.S. Olympic wrestling team after capturing gold in the 2020 Games. If all goes well and he secures his place on the USA Olympic team, Taylor draws nearer to becoming only the third American wrestler to ever win two gold medals alongside John Smith and Bruce Baumgartner.

While that remains his primary focus, the now 33-year-old Penn State alum hasn’t forgotten about a potential move into MMA after first teasing the possibility back in 2022.

“That door’s not closed,” Taylor told MMA Fighting. “I’m interested in it. Right now, my focus is being an Olympic champion. If that happens, it’s time re-evaluate and see what’s next. MMA is something that’s very interesting to me. A lot of wrestlers talk about it because they want the hype or whatever it may be, but I’ve put some time into training this past year.

“I went out to Factory X with coach Marc Montoya and I really enjoyed it. I liked the elements of what my folkstyle wrestling and my mat wrestling brings to MMA. I believe it’s something that could translate well. It’s not something you can talk about because there’s killers in that arena. Just because what I’ve done in wrestling, it’s not going to instantly translate. But if I have that fire to transition and do it, I believe I can be successful. That door is open. I think about it probably every single day.”

Taylor is also a three-time winner of the World Wrestling Championships.

If he decides to make the move to MMA, he’d immediately become one of the most intriguing prospects to ever consider fighting, especially if he wins a second Olympic gold.

At the top level in UFC, there are only a handful of Olympic medalists to fight for the promotion, chief among them former two-division champion Henry Cejudo. When it comes to accomplishments in wrestling, Taylor’s accolades dwarf Cejudo’s résumé.

To put in context Taylor’s dominance in wrestling, he made the 2020 Olympic team after shutting out former Penn State teammate and current UFC up-and-coming star Bo Nickal in a pair of matches with 6-0 and 4-0 scores.

“It’s exciting,” Taylor said of fighting. “I think it’s something that could be really interesting. I’m definitely interested in a fight. I think whether I decide to jump into it as my full-time job or I take a singular fight, I think it’s something I’m definitely interested in.”

Taylor knows just from being a fan of the sport that wrestling remains the best foundation for MMA. He’s witnessed it firsthand as numerous All-American wrestlers and Olympic hopefuls made an immediate impact in fighting.

He believes he could do the same, but just like his wrestling career, it always depends on his drive to compete at the highest level possible.

“I think I’ve always told myself, as long as I have the fire, then I believe I can continue to accomplish what I’m doing,” Taylor explained. “Once I believe that fire is gone to train and to compete, then I don’t want to do it anymore. I’d be lying to you, there’s days at this point in my career where that fire is smoldering. It’s not that bright. It’s hard doing this for a long time. It gets hard. I have a family now and it’s not as easy as it once was. But when you go out and you’re in the competition, and you know what that feels like, and you step across from somebody to really impose your will, to score as many points as you want to, that feeling is incredible. I still have the fire to want to do that.

“I’m in a situation now where I would walk away from this sport at any given time and hold my head high. I accomplished more than I ever thought I could do in the sport. But I still think I can do some great things, and as long as that fire’s still burning and I’m hungry and I’m healthy and I’m fit, I don’t think I’m going to lose.”

For all of the enthusiasm Taylor has about potentially making the move to MMA, two-time Olympian and UFC Hall of Famer Daniel Cormier isn’t so sure the sport is right for him.

Cormier has long advocated that many of the top wrestlers from the United States need to stick with wrestling to prepare the next generation of athletes coming up underneath them. To add to that, Cormier knows from personal experience that fighting is incredibly difficult and not for everybody.

Two other Olympic gold medalists — Kyle Snyder and Jordan Burroughs — discussed a move to MMA in past years before both ultimately decided to stick with wrestling. Cormier believes Taylor should probably do the same.

“I love David, but David better stick to wrestling,” Cormier told MMA Fighting. “He’s too much of a wrestler and David’s a nice guy. You have to be a little crazy to fight and David’s as nice as they come. I had dinner with David in New York the last time he went [to the Olympics] and he never mentioned anything about fighting.

“If he does [fight], I think he would do well because of his background, but this dude is doing fine. Make your money in wrestling. Stay away from this.”

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