Mixed martial arts went through its share of controversy over the years—and it still is—but much of the stigma attached to the sport 10 years ago is waning.
Ensuring that government bodies signed on to regulate the sport, educating the fans and media and putting a rule system in place are all reasons as to why the UFC has become successful.
Acceptance of the sport has come so far that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper gave his Japanese counterpart Yoshihiko Noda a pair of Georges St-Pierre autographed gloves this past weekend.
Having two grown men compete in a combat sport that can result in devastating knockouts and bone-crunching submissions isn't any different than boxing, so MMA has its place in the world of sport, no doubt.
What about kids participating in the sport? Are people as accepting? Should they be?
It's one thing to have grown adults make an informed decision to get inside the cage and slug it out for a living, but having children knocking each other out or snapping limbs in a cage paints a bit of a different picture for most people—and understandably so. Children are still growing, their minds are in critical stages of development and they aren't of age.
Are kids really punching each others lights out in the cage, though?
Kids do practice mixed martial arts, just as other kids practice wrestling, judo, Taekwondo, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and the list can go on.
Just because it's MMA doesn't mean the right safety precautions can't be taken. If the correct rules and safety equipment are adopted, MMA is just as safe as any of the other martial arts that are practiced by millions of children and teenagers around the world.
In almost all cases where children are practicing MMA, they are often required to wear head gear, shin pads and other protective gear for hits to the head, and other potentially dangerous maneuvers are disallowed in competition.
The problem is in what people see and not in what is actually happening. People watch a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competition and they see kids in a disciplined environment that is teaching them life skills.
When you throw in a cage and board shorts people have a tendency to put on their blinders, when the reality is these kids are learning the same life skills they would be learning in any other discipline of martial arts.
Of course, there is potential for injury, which is true of any contact sport children choose to partake in. That being said, football and hockey programs are still full steam ahead for kids as young as four year old despite the risks of concussion and other injuries.
The video you see to the right is of a Taekwondo competition between two young competitors with full head gear and body protection. The opponent in the white head gear is knocked out cold via spinning-heel kick.
Is this something that should happen? You would hope not, but it does. There are more videos like this one on Youtube.
Can someone honestly say that an MMA competition where kids are not allowed to throw strikes to the head is any more dangerous than what you just saw?
With the right rules and regulations in place, MMA is just as safe for kids to practice as any other martial art. People simply need to realize that what they see in the UFC isn't what happens at the youth level.
People may get hung up on the fact that some youth competitions take place in a cage, but the cage is nothing more then a barrier to safely contain the action.
How is it any different than a ring or a wrestling mat? Not different at all. Is a cage more dangerous? Not really.
Of course, nobody wants to see a couple of seven-year-olds smash their faces until they look like Shane Carwin did after his heavyweight bout with Junior dos Santos last July.
However, that's not what happens in youth MMA and people need to see it for what it really is, another extra-curricular activity to help the youth burn off some steam and stay out of trouble.
Leon Horne is a writer for Bleacher Report and part of the BR MMA interview team, Follow @Leon_Horne
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