UFC 135: The Kids from the UFC 135 Press Conference Speak
Those kids have a story, and they were kind enough to share it with Bleacher Report.
The two kids are Jaidyn Mueller and Dillon Thomas of Colorado, who have both been into MMA and martial arts for quite a while before attending the UFC 135 press conference.
"I think when I first saw it, my parents were watching TV downstairs and I decided to go downstairs and watch something with them and I started watching it and I started to like it," Jaidyn, 10, said.
"I think I was probably about eight when I first saw MMA," said Dillon, 11.
The children are fortunate to live in more enlightened times. When years ago kids would likely just train in a striking art, they train in MMA.
"I was four when I was training in Tae Kwon Do and I left Tae Kwon Do when I was seven," said Jaidyn. "Then I started training at [Cecil] People's Denver Karate when I was eight and every once in a while I'll train at Grudge training center."
Some might mock a gym run by Cecil Peoples, an infamous MMA judge, but Peoples was a legitimate full-contact karate fighter back in his day.
Also, the gym doesn't teach just karate.
"One of their Senseis...trains at Grudge pretty heavily and has a few fights under his belt, Conner Cordova; he took Arianny Celeste to prom. He has this massive love for MMA. It wore off on the Karate school. Instead of doing lots of karate, they practice lots of MMA," said David Mueller, Jaidyn's father.
It was the Karate school's love of MMA that ultimately brought the kids to the press conference, as well as a surprise from UFC president Dana White.
"One day, it was a school day and it was one of these things where a small group of kids at this karate school go to train at grudge with coach Trevor [Wittman], and they've really taken this love to MMA and we all just decided that we were gonna go down and meet the fighters and go to the press conference," David said.
"When we got there, we just said, 'They're probably gonna open up to the audience for questions, just raise your hand and be polite and respectful.' When it came time...I don't know if they summoned up the courage or if it was just the way they are, but they were just the two kids who asked the questions," he said.
The questions (Dillon's involving how to get into the UFC and Jaidyn's involving being the first female UFC fighter) earned the attention of Dana White, who sent Burt Watson to Jaidyn and Dillon's party.
"Burt came over and was like 'Before you leave, Dana wants to talk to you guys,' and they brought us into this side room," said David.
And getting backstage wasn't the only cool part; the fighters were quite hospitable and kind to the kids.
"While they were waiting, the fighters were coming down from the stage. A lot of them came down and they were really into the kids. They were really respectful of these kids and interested in these kids. They were taking time to meet all of them and shake their hands and remember their names," he said.
But the most amazing thing was meeting the man himself, Dana White, who was impressed with the kids. Impressed enough to give free tickets to the entire group.
"Dana Came into the room and he was super-impressed with these kids, especially the ones who asked questions. He just couldn't believe that they had the courage to do that. He asked if we were all going to the event. We told him we were going but these guys aren't. He said, 'How many are there?' He said, 'You're going to the event, I'll give you 15 of my personal seats'...It was the most amazing experience," David said.
What does this all mean in the grand scheme of things?
It means that MMA is growing to the level that even kids can learn and appreciate it, and the fighters can appreciate and love the presence of kids.
This is quite an important face when you consider the fact that MMA was practically on life support a decade ago, before FOX and before The Ultimate Fighter. Kids certainly weren't watching then, but they are watching now.
In fact, they are doing even more than watching; they're training and aspiring to be fighters themselves.
"One day, I know I will be the first female UFC fighter," Jaidyn said.
"Watch out, here I come," Dillon said.
Will we see Dillon Thomas and Jaidyn Mueller in the UFC in a decade? Time will tell. But the most important fact of the matter is that kids all over the country (and perhaps world) are training now, and it's these kids that will bring MMA into its golden age.
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