Mixed martial arts gains popularity nationwide

Chase Micek

The UFC and local events such as the Rage in the Cage (RITC) have been gaining popularity within the last few years according to ratings, attendance and sales of memorabilia. The prices for UFC pay per views have been increasing. The price of the last UFC fight was nearly $45 and $55 for high-definition

Why are people willing to shell out high dollar amounts to see mixed martial arts (MMA) bouts? Is MMA a bloodlust sport where people are attracted to violence, or is MMA becoming a viable competitive sport by gaining popularity among sports fans?

LA Boxing, an Ahwatukee gym which offers training for boxing, Muay Thai, Jiu Jitsu and all around mixed martial arts for all levels, provided some possible answers.

The gym located at 44th and Warner Rd, is one of the few gyms in the area offering instruction in self-defense and professional level fighter training.

Upon entering the gym, a flurry of activity is going on. A self-defense class consisting of all age ranges is testing their strikes on some of the many punching bags that the gym offers.

In the matted corner, LA Boxing’s professional MMA team is practicing Jiu Jitsu techniques on each other. In the boxing ring, a kick boxer patiently listens to her instructor go over techniques preparing her for her upcoming title match.

Josh Pickethall, head Muay Thai trainer at LA Boxing, fervently and systematically kicks the punching bag in front of him.

He started his Muay Thai career nearly nine years ago with a friend. Both got into it for fun and he has never left the sport since.

He believes there are many reasons why many spectators are being attracted to this so-called “brutal” competition.

“It’s the ultimate sport. The sport is still relatively new in the United States,” Pickethall said.

“With the sport being so young, it attracts many spectators based on its ferocity and not necessarily with its skill and competiveness. This is why at many events in the U.S., booing is heard when there are no knockouts. I

It is the opposite in other countries such as Japan, where respect is given to each fighter no matter how they win or lose,” he added.

However, Pickethall believes the sport has started to mature and will “come around,” in the U.S.

“We will see the same level of respect for the fighters and their different style of skills as in other countries. People will be attracted to the technique of the sport rather than the violence,” Pickethall said.

Mark Palazuelos, owner of LA Boxing, believes UFC and RITC events are getting bigger because it encompasses many different types of sports into one. Boxing, Muay Thai, Jiu Jitsu and wrestling are but a few techniques required by fighters wanting to become successful in the sport of MMA.

The spectators of these events are attracted to MMA since it puts the different techniques against each other.

People are not only drawn to MMA as spectators, but also as competitors and students.

According to Dustin Hayden, General Manager of LA Boxing, the gym trains professional fighters, such as Richie Hightower from the UFC’s and Spike channel’s Ultimate Fighter sixth season, to 60-year-olds who are looking to feel younger and get stronger.

Hayden said that many of those coming to his gym are normal men and women seeking new skills whether it is for self-defense, competition or just getting into shape.

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These are archived stories from Mesa Legend editions before Fall 2018. See article for corresponding author.

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