Being a teenager and a rabid MMA fan, it is very frustrating to me to not be able to see local fights or train and compete because of my age. I live in a relatively large Midwest city, so one would think the opportunities to train, fight and watch live bouts would be relatively numerous.
However, when searching for a gym to train at, I was turned away because I am not yet 18. Thinking this was just a rule at one gym, I drove to the second local MMA gym. And the third. And the fourth. After five, I called it quits for the day, feeling thoroughly dejected.
The next day, after speaking to some older friends of mine who fight locally, I decided to train with them in their home gym. After 6 months of training, the opportunity for a fight came up. I was naturally very excited and eager to test what i had learned.
One week before the fight, I received a phone call saying I had been dropped from the card. The reason? Again, I was not yet 18.
At this point, I decided to train until I was 18, then give it another shot. In the meantime, I would attend as many local shows as I could. I went to a few shows held at area high schools and even one at a church and enjoyed myself immensely, but I was still turned away at a few because I couldn't vote or legally smoke.
Recently, one of my older friends that I train with took a fight at one of the biggest nightclubs in the Midwest. He asked me to be in his corner for the fight. Flattered, I readily accepted. Once we arrived, we found out I would not be able to be in his corner. Once again, that magic number. 18.
I asked if I could stay and watch my friend fight, but I was told for the second time in one night that I must be 18. This was very disappointing, as this was a huge event with some of the best fighters in the region.
I don't have to be 18 to watch a UFC event on Pay-Per-View. Why should I need to be 18 to watch a local event?
If the idea behind local MMA is to create fans and competitors for the future, shouldn't the promoters and trainers want to find the best fighters as early as possible? And wouldn't the events want to open themselves up to the widest audience possible?
I sincerely hope my experience with local MMA is only an issue in my city. While it has done nothing to lessen my love of fighting, I have a feeling it certainly has the potential to ruin MMA for others.