Inside The Outrageous World of CHILD CAGE FIGHTING
It is the heat of battle between two MMA fighters hemmed inside an industrial metal cage. One kicks, punches and strangles his way to brutal victory. His opponent breaks down and cries tears for his mother.
But this is not an unusual end to another televised brawl between two fully grown brutes, this is kids’s MMA, or Mixed Martial Arts, which is rapidly becoming one of the nation’s fastest growing sports among children.
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.
Critics call it barbaric and fear for the children’s safety and the effect on their behavior.
Supporters compare it’s benefits to boxing and traditional martial arts and claim that it encourages self-discipline, fair play and exercise.
A New-York based photographer, Sebastian Montalvo, traveled across the country and compiled a photographic essay in which he attempts to shine a light onto the ferocious sport, giving names and faces to the little children whose parents are encouraging their fighting spirit.
One such child, is Kristopher Arrey. He is seven years old and his success in the MMA ring is so fearsome that he has earned the nickname ‘The Arm Collector’.
In one striking and arguably disturbing image from Montalvo, Arrey is on his back, inflicting a painful choke-hold on another boy.
Once this fight ends in victory for Arrey, his defeated opponent, Mason Bramlette, who is also seven, is seen crying – an illuminating image which reminds the viewer exactly how old the fighter’s are.
Montalvo told¬†CNN¬†that parental encouragement is key to the growth of MMA.
‘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.’