When two dogs are in a cage to fight each other, it’s illegal.
When two children are in a cage to fight each other, it’s part of the fastest growing sport in America: “ultimate fighting.”
Also known as cage fighting or mixed martial arts, ultimate fighting is a no-holds-barred combo of wrestling, boxing, and martial arts that is increasingly popular, often bloody, and usually staged in a cage.
Now, in the sport’s latest spin-off, kids as young as six are brawling in cages, using kicks, body blows, and choke holds in a contest of physical submission.
Unlike adults who engage in ultimate fighting, kids wear padding and head gear. And also unlike adults, kids who cage-fight can only do so with the consent and support of their parents, who say the violent fighting is no more dangerous than wrestling and believe it teaches skills like discipline, respect, responsibility, and control.
“It’s wonderful,” said a Missouri mother who encourages her 10 and 14 year old sons in ultimate fighting. “They build such good character and good friendships, and that’s what you need to further yourself in life.”
But while some applaud, others are appalled. “I have parents who kind of scare me sometimes,” said the owner of a Massachusetts gym where kids train in ultimate fighting. “Moms and dads letting their kids choke them just for practice reasons. The days of Dad throwing a ball with little Billy are over.”
Medical experts are also concerned about the pummeling kids endure in cage fighting, saying it can cause significant injuries to the neck and bones.
There are no standardized laws governing children’s cage fighting matches in the U.S. Massachusetts and Missouri allow youth contests, while other states ban the practice or don’t regulate it at all. “I think it borders on child abuse,” said a Missouri legislator who has introduced a bill to ban ultimate fighting for children in that state.
As a spectator sport, ultimate fighting continues to grow, its ever-larger TV audiences turning cage combat into a mega-millions fight club, with an increasingly younger face. “I daydream during school,” said one 14 year old ultimate fighter, “of me being in the cage with everybody watching me on TV.”
Tell us what you think: Is cage fighting for kids a responsible sport? Should anyone be responsible for regulating it—parents?...the government? Do viewers of ultimate fighting play a role in the sports increasing appeal to children?