Jeff Blatnick has died at the age of 55 due to complications from heart surgery.

Albany, N.Y.’s WNYT first brought word of Blatnick’s passing Wednesday afternoon.

Born in Niskayuna, N.Y., Blatnick became a high school wrestling champion and then earned a pair of NCAA Division II wrestling titles while attending Springfield College in Springfield, Mass. Blatnick qualified for the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow but was unable to compete due to the United States’ boycott of the event. Following a battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Blatnick went on to capture Olympic gold in Greco-Roman wrestling in 1984.

The New Yorker made his foray into mixed martial arts as a commentator at UFC 4 in 1994 and remained employed in that capacity through 2001. Blatnick then turned his primary focus to the regulation of the sport, drafting the Mixed Martial Arts Council manual and serving as that body’s chair. He also performed duties as a licensed judge in New Jersey and volunteered as a high school wrestling coach in his home state.

“Jeff should be remembered as one of the most important figures in the growth and formation of MMA in this country,” Nick Lembo, counsel to the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board, told “He was the Chair of the MMAC, a key drafter of the proposed unified rules and an outstanding judge and trainer to new officials. Every fan of MMA owes a debt of gratitude to Jeff Blatnick for how hard he fought for the sport. He was friendly but relentless.

“He was also a dear personal friend and a man of loyalty, integrity and kindness. I will miss him terribly as a friend.”

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