Cage fights for children, youth competitions not yet allowed in Georgia – WSB-TV Channel 2

ATLANTA – Mixed Martial Arts is a violent, often bloody sport. It may surprise you that children as young as 8 years old get in the cage and fight.

MMA includes body punches, kicks and wrestling. So does the cage fight of the children.

“What do you love about MMA?” Channel 2 athletic director Zach Klein asked 15-year-old fighter Sean Goldsby.

“The fight. Just…I love being in this cage,” Sean said.

The 15-year-old already has two years of experience competing in youth MMA tournaments.

The Butts County teenager even fought at the 2021 World Youth Championship in Bulgaria.

Abigail Alvazrez lives in California and started competing at the age of 7.

“It was pretty intense because it was just a bunch of little kids fighting each other,” Alvazrez said.

Kids ages 8-17 can compete in youth MMA leagues, but it’s not the same as the UFC flights you see on TV. Blows to the head are not allowed.

“If a headbutt comes… it’s a penalty and you know they kind of end the fight, you reset, they go again,” Sean said.

The children wear protective clothing.

“We have a hat, secure clothing, large shin pads, a mug, everything you need to stay safe,” Sean said.

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Sean’s father, Bryan Goldsby, is a former professional MMA fighter and one of his trainers.

“It’s safer than football, safer than boxing. It’s very safe. No concussions, no hits to the head,” Goldsby said.

But sometimes accidental hits to the head happen.

dr Jasmine Forte is a neurologist with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. She said concussions are serious.

“Concussion should be avoided at all costs, although concussion is often referred to as a minor traumatic brain injury. Symptoms can be anything but mild,” Forte said.

“So you, Sean, can’t fight MMA in Georgia,” Klein asked Sean.

“No, because there’s nothing here,” Sean said. “It’s hard. I like having to go to different states, sometimes different countries, to find a fight.

Currently, youth MMA fights are not allowed in Georgia.

“Our primary concern is whether we have the right rules to regulate any type of martial arts event,” said Seth Millican, chair of the Georgia Athletic and Entertainment Commission.

Sean can train at Independent MMA in McDonough, but he travels to Tennessee, Florida or Texas to compete.

One group pushed to change that, but efforts died when the pandemic ended live sporting events.

“This issue has recently come back to the commission and so we are working with the attorney general’s office right now to see what our statute, what rules allow us to regulate,” Millican said.

If given the green light, the commission would set up rules to protect youth fighters.

“There’s always a risk of concussion in martial arts,” Millican said.

California allows youth MMA fights.

Alvarez said the experience she gained from competing in the cage was invaluable.

“I definitely think my style has evolved through competition in most fights and in my overall play,” Alvarez said.

Youth MMA supporters said the benefits outweigh the risks. Sport teaches discipline and builds self-confidence.

“If I have enough confidence to get in there and compete in a cage or ring, then I’ll be confident enough to pass that test,” Goldsby said.

“I can work hard. The feeling afterwards, it hurts. But I know, hey, I did something today. I’ve improved as a person,” Sean said.

The positive is why he hopes youth MMA competitions will be allowed in Georgia.

“I’d say at least give it a chance,” Sean said.

There is no timeline for Georgia to make a decision on allowing youth MMA fights.

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