Fighters' ultimate challenge
MIXED martial arts (MMA) is the fastest-growing sport in the world, the antidote to those who say violence no longer has a place in modern society.
And Ipswich residents are embracing the brutal sport, made famous by the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) – a mammoth combat event coming to Sydney next week.
But the truth is, behind the blood-squirting elbow strikes, MMA is a technical and safe sport which requires immense discipline, according to Infinity Martial Arts head coach Alex Brekell.
“I won't say it's not violent because it is, but it's truly about the inner self, finding out how tough you are, how far you can push yourself. It's not about how much damage you can inflict,” he said.
Infinity Martial Arts, in Booval, has been open just three months but already has 150 members signed up. It teaches Brazilian jiu jitsu and MMA to a legion of mostly young fighters.
The popularity of the gym is no surprise when one of the trainers is Neil Owen, a black belt who has trained UFC competitors.
“We are going really well and still signing up new members every week,” Mr Brekell said.
“Ipswich loves MMA.
“It is mainly because of the UFC. It's really popular here.”
There is also another MMA gym in Ipswich, Golden Phoenix, based in Yamanto.
In the mid-90s, American senator and former Republican leader John McCain led a campaign to ban the UFC, calling it “human cockfighting”. The UFC then made rule changes and McCain would later endorse the sport.
Infinity Martial Arts part-owner Chad Wright said while it could be a violent sport, there were more injuries in rugby league. “It's not as violent as it looks. There are other sports where injuries happen far more often,” he said.