Photo by Michael Campanella/Getty Images
When Gunnar Nelson takes to the Octagon on Saturday in Stockholm we will not be simply watching a skilled martial artist take on another top tier talent with a view to staking a claim at UFC’s welterweight title. Nelson, a sensation in his native Iceland, is also at the forefront of his nation’s battle to see mixed martial arts legalized.
As Charlie Gilmour best described in his masterpiece Outlaws and Ancient Gods: Fighting the Law with the Champions of Mjölnir, the whole nation shuts down when Nelson exercises his craft on the world’s biggest martial arts stage. It is through the support of his fans and the noise that they generate with regard to their hero that Nelson believes has created “a little fire” when it comes to the legitimization of the sport in Iceland.
“Whenever someone from our country is doing well at something it creates a little fire,” he said. “Whether it’s in politics or in popular culture, the fire has certainly started when it comes to the legality of the sport in Iceland.”
The Brazilian jiu jitsu phenom acknowledges his role as the protagonist of the legalization movement and is adamant that his constant competitive nature will allow the powers that be to see how controlled the sport is under the world’s flagship promotion.
“The fact that someone from Iceland is doing well in MMA is a huge reason to look at the legal status. They will realize that they’ll have to legalize it at some stage. It makes sense. The shows are put together well, it’s got great rules that keep the athletes safe and the more you look into it the more you realize it makes sense to legalize it,” claimed the unbeaten Mjolnir man.
Nelson also highlighted the transition a lot of his country are making on how they view the sport that has been scrutinized quite publically in the past. He has noticed a growing appreciation the more the nation are exposed to MMA and realizes that his success can only benefit the movement in the long run.
He said: “Every time I go in there, every time I’m on TV explaining what the sport is all about—people are appreciating what MMA is all about, the sport is huge back home. I think the more people make noise and talk about, the more pressure there will be to legalize it.”
The European standout is confident that MMA’s fight for regulation in Iceland is coming to an end and is hopeful that soon his country will allow amateur competitions that will put the sport’s proverbial foot in the door.
“I think it’s going to happen in the near future. We’re probably going to be allowed have some amateur competitions soon and then hopefully that will lead to the next step. I can’t see these laws standing for too much longer. It doesn’t make sense and politicians like to make sense,” he quipped.
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