The caption on the email -- "Eight-year-old kids cage fighting" -- was stomach-turning in itself and it didn't get any better from there.

The video enclosed, lamentably, was exactly what it suggested, footage of a pair of tiny British boys scrapping with each other in an organized and public MMA show.

It came from the Greenlands Labour Club in Preston, England, as was part of an event known as Reps Retribution. As the eight-year-olds tried to inflict painful submission holds and grappling moves on each other, a sizable crowd cheered its approval while announcers analyzed the action.

Given that the video has now been largely banished from the Web, it is fair to assume I wasn't the only one who found it sickening to see.

Let's get one thing straight: I am an avowed fan of the martial arts, including MMA. I appreciate the skill, athleticism and courage required to perform those sports at a high level.

I am also a believer in the value of combat sport training as a valid and valuable method of self-defense, and confidence-boosting in children. My son is three years old and will be enrolled in the judo and ju-jitsu clubs near where he lives before his seventh birthday.

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But to have children of such a young age performing in front of a crowd in a sport such as MMA is just not right on any level.

Youth sports are a wonderful thing and learning how to compete and strive for victory is one of their most positive elements. MMA though, is not tennis, or baseball or soccer. The price of defeat is potentially much greater than wounded pride and a spoonful of tears. The loser of an MMA fight has been defeated, physically, by another child, and in this case, while a crowd voiced its approval. Apart from any physical damage, the psychological aspect of such an outcome is far more severe than a bunch of Little League strikeouts or a missed penalty kick.

The defense offered by club owner Michelle Anderson was as ludicrous as it was unconvincing. "The kids were there to fight," Anderson told the Daily Telegraph. "The parents were there. Would people rather these kids were out on the streets with guns and knives?"

Now maybe this is a naïve view from someone who has been away from England for several years, but is a public MMA bout really the only way to keep these eight-year-olds away from violent crime? Please.

"It is not one bit dangerous," was the extraordinary view of Nick Hartley, one of the boys' parents. "It is a controlled sport. Until he gets a bit older and he starts doing physical contact like punching and kicking then maybe, but at his age it's wrestling, like grappling."

To claim that MMA is not dangerous is not only irresponsible, but it also undermines the bravery and talent of those who partake in it. It is that danger which makes it exciting, and which makes experts such as those in the Ultimate Fighting Championship sportsmen of a high standing.

Sure, the amateur rules which regulate the actions in the octagon and forbid strikes and elbows make this somewhat less appalling than otherwise, but there are only two ways in which this could be anything other than grotesque.

Give the kids padding and headgear, like the sort used in youth MMA bouts in the United States.

And get them away from the crowd, off the Web. This is not something we need to see, and not something they should be exposed to.

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Tags:
MMA, UFC