MARTIAL arts champs on Wearside today hit back at claims that children’s cage fighting is barbaric.
The sport was slammed by campaigners and Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt after footage emerged of kids as young as eight taking part in a bout at a social club in Preston.
But Wearside martial artists say the fight, which is also known as Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), has been blown out of all proportion.
Phil de Fries, 25, from Millfield, who fights in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, said: “It’s two kids grappling in a cage. In every country in the world kids wrestle.
“What’s being said about it is ridiculous. It’s not proper fighting, there’s no big pick-ups and slams, and it is completely different from adult fighting – there’s a lot more restrictions.”
Police yesterday announced they would take no action against the organisers of the fight after concerns were raised about whether the boys involved were being put at risk.
A video of the bout posted on the internet shows the youngsters fighting in a cage without protective padding or headgear and receiving medical attention.
Phil, who trains at the Fight Pit in Shiney Row, said: “Martial arts is a sport taught by respectful people to respectful kids, but the way this fight’s been worded by the media has made it sound bad.”
Andrew Fisher, 26, from Eden Vale, is the holder of the Supremacy Professional Light Weight European title in MMA.
He teaches the sport to wannabe fighters as young as 14 at The Olympian Gym in Ryhope.
He said: “Because this was in a cage it’s been tarnished as brutal, but if it was on a mat, no one would be concerned.
“For people taking part in MMA under 16 there are a lot of restrictions. There are no blows to the head, no punches, no strikes. It’s been blown out of all proportion.
“Football and rugby are more dangerous in terms of injuries. I’ve been doing MMA for years and any injuries I’ve had have never been as bad as those I received playing football at school.
“All the lads I teach are nice lads.I don’t teach the ones who get into bother. It’s a technical sport that requires a lot of intelligence.”
Speaking about the controversial fight, Jeremy Hunt said: “Getting more young people doing sport is great, but I do ask myself whether it really does have to be in a cage.
“It just feels to me ... it feels very barbaric, and I know there are concerns about children that young doing a sport like that.
“I think if adults choose to do it, that’s one thing. I suppose I do share some of the shock that I think many of your viewers will feel.”
His comments echo concerns raised by a children’s charity which branded the fight “disturbing” and warned parents against allowing youngsters to take part in cage fighting while they are developing.