Children's MMA Growing in Popularity

Children's MMA Growing in Popularity

Mixed Martial Arts is very popular in America, but another form is quickly gaining steam. Children’s MMA–or Pankration–is one of the fastest growing sports for young kids.

It is no surprise there are many critics of this sport:

It is estimated that three million boys and girls, some as young as five-years-old launch themselves at each other weekly across the nation engaged in Pankration – some wearing no head protection and throwing punches boasting gloves little more than one-inch thick.

The critics think the sport will have an effect on their behavior while supporters think it is no different than boxing or other martial arts. 

Photographer Sebastian Montalvo, who traveled the country and documented the sport, said the parents help the sport grow. 

‘Are you OK?’ Montalvo heard the referee asking Mason as tears streamed down his face. ‘Do you want to stop fighting?’.

His father urged his son to stay in the ring.

Indeed, Montalvo said that the key aspect of kid’s MMA was how competitive the parents are.

‘They’re mega-competitive,’ Montalvo said. They ‘love their kids 100%’ and ‘they just want them to win.’

In 2011, The Sun Sentinel said doctors are worried about kids who are overtraining for the sport. Dr. Paul Meli, medical director of Meli Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Fort Lauderdale, said boys are not skeletally mature even at 14 years of age. Dr. Jeremy Frank, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon, said MMA could lead to many wears and tears on such a young body. The kids are very competitive, and they take on too much at one time. Their bodies are not meant to sustain such harsh conditions. 

“If they break a bone, that surgery is different than what you’d do on adults because of growth plates,” Frank says. “And if a child tears a ligament, say an ACL, you can’t do the reconstruction on adults that you’d do on a kid. It would affect their growth.”

But Frank wants to be clear: MMA is OK, if…

“It’s just a matter of being well-instructed, careful and cautious,” he says. “Just like anything else you do.”