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Images of child cage fighting have sparked controversy in the U.K. The story might make some parents wonder: Is it safe for children to engage in cage fighting, also known as "ultimate fighting" or "mixed martial arts"? Are these types of sports with children even legal?
In the U.S., there are no federal laws that specifically prohibit child boxing. About 18,000 children and teens under the age of 19 are estimated to participate in the sport in America.
Boxing and cage fighting are fundamentally different sports, however. In boxing matches, participants wear protective gear such as gloves. In cage fighting, participants wear little to no protective gear.
Authorities in England, however, can do little to stop the fighting. It's legal, after all, even if it involves young children. The video that started the controversy depicted an 8-year-old and a 9-year-old fighting, as seen below:
The fighting is not against the law because the club where the fight was hosted has a license to stage these kinds of events. While police are looking into this, it's unlikely that arrests will be made.
Here in America, there's a similar dearth of legislation that prohibits fighting sports. Cage fighting is usually regulated by boxing commissions. And regulations vary by state. Some states, like Oklahoma, have banned youth fighting. Other states allow it.
But parents that allow their kids to participate in sports like cage fighting and boxing may be doing so against the recommendation of pediatricians.
The American Academy of Pediatrics opposes child boxing because it can result in serious brain and eye injuries. The group hasn't written any policy statements on child cage fighting, but it seems safe to assume that they'd be against it as well. UFC is a hugely popular sport in the U.S., especially with the younger set. For parents, the question seems to be: even if "ultimate fighting" or child boxing is legal, should you let your kids participate?