09/11/07 — Mixed Martial Arts comes to Wayne County

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Mixed Martial Arts comes to Wayne County

By Rob Craig
Published in Sports on September 11, 2007 1:47 PM

It's a sport that's been associated with brutality such as eye gouging and biting. It has been banned in states across the country.

Slowly though, these misconceptions regarding mixed martial arts (MMA) are changing as the sport continues to expand and grow in popularity.

Thomas "Moose" Huffman recognized the novelty and excitement of MMA, which is part of the reason he opened his mixed martial arts studio in January of this year. Since that time, Huffman's ABI studio has generated all sorts of interest from residents seeking an alternative form of workout.

"MMA is very popular with the military because of the training," said Huffman. "With us, we have boxing, kick boxing, jujitsu and wrestling. There are no treadmills or elliptical machines.

"We push these guys through different workouts. Throwing a 200-pound man around involves a lot more conditioning than running on a treadmill."

Mixed martial arts fighting techniques vary, but Huffman focuses on just boxing, kick boxing, jujitsu and wrestling. The fights are usually held in an octagon-shaped cage with padded areas enclosed by a chain-linked fence.

Fighting in a cage can make the sport seem brutal, but in reality MMA is safer than many other sports, especially boxing.

In boxing, two competitors try to knock each other out in 12, grueling rounds. During that time the combatants endure hundreds of blows to the head.

In mixed martial arts, there's a variety of ways you can defeat your opponent -- only one of which knocking the person out.

"With MMA you do submissions, knockouts ... intelligently defending yourself and judge decisions," said Huffman. "That's a lot better than being hit in your head for twelve rounds."

Statistics back up those claims. According to The Journal of Combative Sports, through 2006 there have been more than 1,300 boxing-related deaths. To date, there has never been a fatal injury in a sanctioned MMA fight.

People are turning to MMA for another reason as well -- entertainment. With constant action of multiple fighting techniques, viewership and participation in MMA is vastly increasing. Sports Illustrated and ESPN are just two of the major media outlets to recognize mixed martial arts in the past year.

With interest growing around the country and in the area, Huffman was able to form a six-man team from Wayne County. The guys have competed in the southeastern states which the sport is legal -- Virginia, Kentucky, Georgia and Florida. To date, 33 states have legalized the sport according to the International Fight League.

Soon, the sport will be held in North Carolina. With the aid of fellow MMA fan and supporter Doug Muhle, the N.C. Senate recently unanimously passed a bill that would allow mixed martial arts matches in the state.

"Hopefully by next year we'll do the first show in North Carolina," said Moose. "We're looking at around March."

The only delay now is coming up with the rules that will govern them. Some obvious rules that will be included will be eliminating eye gouging, biting and hair pulling, all universal rules of MMA.

Moose envisions elbows and knees to the head will also be made illegal based on his past experiences at amateur MMA events.

In the events there will most likely be three classes of competitors, an A, B and C class. The classes will be arranged based on fighting ability and will have varying degrees of protection.

When events do start in the state, they'll likely be held in Raleigh, Greensboro and Charlotte, although Huffman has a strong desire to bring a live MMA event to Goldsboro.

"There's a lot of interest in the community right now and it's growing," he said.

With all of the excitement being generated around the country and the many misconceptions being disproved, it's easy to understand why Huffman and the competitors of his studio have fallen in love with the sport.

"It's only going to get bigger," Huffman said. "It's not tough man, it's not boxing, it's not kick boxing -- it's MMA and it's blowing up."