Scrolling through my Facebook news feed this morning, I came across an interesting article written by a colleague of mine detailing a recent mixed martial arts bout between a six-year-old child and a seven-year-old child for the Armenian Fighting Championship.
The fight, which can be viewed in its entirety in the embedded video above, featured young Hayk Tashchyan and the even younger Minas Avagyan in what appears to be a full-contact MMA bout, although what exactly the rule book is for this fight is unknown to me at this time.
Tashchyan started the match with a wild hook, only to get taken down with ease by Avagyan. After a few reversals, some ground-and-pound and a couple of submission attempts, little Minas was able to secure a guillotine choke with a little over two minutes left for the win.
After the fight, Avagyan climbed the cage in victory like the UFC fighters he's seen on television followed by Avagyan's rendition of Tito Ortiz's gravedigger post-fight celebration.
Having watched the video several times now, I am both impressed and mortified by what I saw.
Unlike other amateur combative competitions featuring teens and kids, the AFC did not require Tashchyan and Avagyan to wear headgear, shin pads or thicker gloves. Wearing only the familiar fingerless MMA gloves, these children looked like miniature versions of the athletes they idolize.
The obvious concern that comes to mind is the health and safety of the children.
Other sports, such as football, have had to deal with similar concerns in recent months.
A study released back in February revealed that head impacts sustained by second-grade football players can be as severe as injuries received at the college level according to ESPN.com. In the wake of the report, Jon Butler, the national president for Pop Warner, proposed a major overhaul in the amount of contact kids receive in practice.
While neither Avagyan nor Tashchyan were hit with any blows to the head, if little Hayk connected with his wild hook, this story could have taken a turn for the worse.
No matter how skilled a child may be, his or her body is just not developed enough to take the impact that more mature fighters get hit with. Even grappling wise, a tight submission held on for too long could cause serious harm to a young person's body.
Luckily, the regulation here in the United States is much more strict than their Armenian counterparts, who sanctioned this bout, as most combative tournaments in America severely limit or prohibit major strikes to the head and submission attempts for younger athletes.
While I don't condone kids fighting full-contact at this age, I cannot help but be impressed by Avagyan and Tashchyan's skill. Children shouldn't be allowed in the cage, but letting them train in the various martial arts is a fantastic idea.
As someone who started his martial arts training at five-years-old, I can say from personal experience that having a child train at a young age comes with so many benefits. Not only does a kid get to learn how to defend themselves, stay active and get a leg up as a developing athlete, but it also teaches him or a her discipline, patience and other life virtues.
The key is having qualified instructors who know how to teach in a safe environment.
I don't think that the kid AFC fighters' coaches wanted to see them get injured, but by allowing them to fight with minimal protection clearly shows that they don't have the children's best interests at heart.
At the end of the day, kids learning MMA is not a bad idea, but it has to be done in a safe way that doesn't harm their development. But to allow them to fight in a cage with virtually the same rules as adult fighters is absolutely asinine.