Youth MMA coming to Newton
About two years ago Chris Rangel decided to try something new and different — he created a class at Ultimate Martial Arts for kids to learn Mixed Martial Arts.
He started out with about five kids in what he called "Kinder Cagers." He taught the basics of how to fight in an MMA cage.
"We taught them basic take downs, how to get out of take downs, how to box like a boxer and how to kick like a kicker," Rangel said.
And just like the sport that started out on late night cable television, the class exploded in popularity.
"It took off like wildfire ... We have about 50 kids right now. It has really picked up," Rangel said. "The biggest we have had on the floor at one time is 71, and then COVID hit and we have to limit traffic to multiple classes."
That popularity and growth at his gym in the Newton Chisholm Trail Retail and Outlet Shops on SE 36h is about come to a culminating event. Oct. 23 Ultimate Martial Arts will host a regional tournament for mixed martial artists ages 8 to 17.
nullThat tournament will be sanctioned by the Global Association of Mixed Martial Arts. Competitors who do well can qualify for a national event. Similar regional events have been announced for Tennessee, New York, Nevada, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Arizona, Florida and South Carolina.
This, however, will not be quite what sports fans watch on television — there are some extra rules in place for youth tournaments. For starters, shin guards will be worn. Head strikes will not be allowed, nor will leg locks.
"It is very controlled. We have referees and corners just like the pros," Rangel said. "Everything is done is for the kids."
Each bout will consist of up to three two minute rounds, with a scoring system in place to determine the winners. Three judges score each round separately, giving 10 points to the winner of the round and 9 or less (8 or very rarely 7) based on how dominant one fighter was in a particular round. The round can also go 10-10, but it is very uncommon.
To try and cub weight cutting, same day weigh ins are used.
Rangel said that while winning punches a competitor's ticket to larger tournaments, the focus of youth events lies elsewhere.
"This helps kids learn the etiquette of the martial arts world," Rangel said. "They learn in a controlled environments. We have kids of all ages."
For some Newton competitors, a trip to the national tournament is not overly new. Shen Rangel applied to become a coach within the GAMMA system he had to build a team.
That team went to the nationals in 2020, where they got a taste of that level of competition.
"My kids did well. I took seven, and all took at least the top four in the country," Rangel said.
Come Oct. 23 they will get to compete in their home facility, which can hold up to about 350 spectators. Admission to the tournament is $3, with matches set to begin at 11 a.m.
It is a day many seem to be looking forward too.
"It is pretty fun," Rangel said. "We have kids coming from Oklahoma, Texas and Nevada. They have already contacted me and are already on the books. As soon as it hit the internet I have had coaches calling to get their kids here."