Too young to cage fight? Over 3.2 million kids under 13 are doing it

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Two little boys are punching, kicking and tackling each other in a cage. No, it’s not an underground phenomenon. It’s the exponentially expanding youth section of mixed martial arts, also known as MMA.

Though some MMA organizations dispute the network’s findings, ESPN is reporting there are currently 3.2 million kids under the age of 13 taking part in MMA schools across the country.

HLN reached out to one mom, Bernadette Thone, whose son Aiden participates in one of those leagues in southern California. Bernadette started the interview by calling MMA “just like any other sport.”

“Aiden enjoys it and he’s good at it,” she said. “No sport is exempt from injuries, so I feel like I can’t keep him from doing something that he’s good at because of my fears.”

Aiden beams when talking about his favorite sport, saying he loves it so much because “I get to to defend myself is somebody tries to hurt me.”

The youngster’s favorite move is “the guillotine,” and he described the technique as a way to “choke people.” Sitting right next to Aiden and listening to her son say those words didn’t give Bernadette pause.

“A lot of people from the outside world don’t understand martial arts,” she said. “It’s about respect and discipline. They teach him courage and good sportsmanship. Those are all positive qualities that Aiden can carry on throughout his life.

Bernadette doesn’t worry that Aiden won’t be able to compartmentalize as he moves forward in life, either. She says she has never had a problem with him being violent away from the gym.

“He knows the difference between when this is appropriate and when it’s not,” she said.

After watching the video and hearing from her, would you let your kid participate in the sport? Click here to tell us on Facebook