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Gold Medalist, MMA pioneer Jeff Blatnick passes away at 55 following heart surgery

The world of Mixed Martial Arts unexpectedly lost one of the greats on Wednesday, as Jeff Blatnick was revealed to have died at the age of 55 due to complications from heart surgery. Blatnick was a two-time collegiate champion on the mat and won Olympic gold in 1984 in Greco-Roman wrestling, though most MMA fans will undoubtedly remember him for his role on the UFC broadcast team during the organization’s early days.

The company paid tribute to Blatnick on their website after word of his passing surfaced, sending their condolences to his family and touching on the influence he’d had.

“Blatnick was a pioneering force in Mixed Martial Arts who introduced countless people to the sport as a UFC commentator from UFC 4 through 32. Blatnick also worked closely with athletic commissions regarding the sport he loved, and he would later serve as an MMA judge, even working several UFC events,” explained the statement. Blatnick also helped influence the rules when the UFC started transitioning from a “no holds barred” sport to one with many of the same policies being used today.

No news was offered on the reason for his heart surgery.

Blatnick was also a two-time cancer survivor, winning his medal two years after a bout of Hodgkins Lymphoma.

R.I.P. Jeff Blatnick, a true pioneer of modern day MMA on multiple levels who left the sport far better than he found it.