With moves like "ground-and-pound" and "lay-and-pray", Mixed Martial Arts is considered the most brutal form of contact sport after street fighting. So why are children as young as six getting involved?
MMA is a refined version of "ultimate fighting", the short-lived full-contact sport that emerged in the early nineties and was once labelled "human cock fighting" by John McCain. Too violent for the public, ultimate fighting was reworked with a few strict rules and re-entered the sporting arena as "Mixed Martial Arts". Since it began, three people have died from MMA related injuries, and organised competitions are illegal in 49 states. However, the sport's popularity continues to grow, and it's now on a par with wrestling and boxing in terms of TV viewing numbers.
In the past few years increasing numbers of classes for children have sprung up around the US. In states where it's legal, such as Missouri, competitions are staged - like the one in this video.
Matthew Douglas runs the Barbarian Fight Club which is open to children, and The Cave MMA gym, in Fredericksburg, Virginia. He held the US title in MMA for three years.
My son is nine-years-old and he's perfectly trained in MMA. In fact we're off to Missouri - where it's legal for kids to fight in competition - for his first fight next month. He's really excited. You look at the kids when they come out of a fight - they love it! And they're the best of buddies with the people they fight. It's just a big pillow fight for them.
I've never personally seen any child get injured. I'm sure it's happened, like with every sport. Just last night I was watching a children's [American] football game and a seven-year-old got his knee busted so bad he'll never play again. MMA fighters have great respect - I've competed right to the top and I've never hurt anyone.
MMA is getting really big now. We have a fight every three months here and we get around 2000 spectators each time. It's the sport of sports - its original form is gladiator fights. People might say they don't like watching fights. But if one breaks out ten yards away, you're going to watch it."
Yves Papelier is a sports science doctor and judo coach in Paris.
I can't say if I'd call what I've seen in these videos a sport. Sport is a coded practice and a part of a culture and society. Its rules are the results of evolution. They're a kind of gentlemanly agreement, a way of continuing the sport while protecting the sportsmen. Judo and karate are dangerous sports. That's why there are also customs that go with it (we salute each other before and after a fight etc). In professional boxing, this is not so present. And with MMA, we reduce the rules even further, to a minimum, and let the players express themselves. Why? For the spectacle. It's a very Anglo-Saxon view of sport. With judo, there's no aggression, at least not with the good fighters. And the public don't shout (at least not until recently), because it's a sport and not a gladiator fight."
MMA is banned in France by the Minster of Youth, Sports and Health. We consider that sports should be codified and not endanger the people involved. It's also because MMA is a practice often related to sects - it's happened several times in France. And also because there's a fine line between being a good coach and a guru. France is more developed than the US in terms of sport - the US only has a commercial approach to practice."