Kids MMA Growing Around U.S.

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. -- Two of the best in the world of boxing and mixed martial arts are going head to head tomorrow.  Floyd Mayweather has become a  household name and so has MMA star Conor McGregor.  

The controversial sport has taken over the globe and an estimated 6.5 million children participate in karate, taekwondo, kickboxing and other martial arts.

15 year old Korey Mendoza  took up mixed martial arts after being bullied.   "It's just good to learn how to defend yourself and know what to do"

His dad organizes MMA matches for youth fighters across the country.

"When we first started and would go to tournaments maybe there would be 100 kids and now in the database we probably have about 600 or 700 looking for fights actively," Sam Mendoza says.

Mixed martial arts has become one of the biggest sports in the world with more than 3.5 million people participating in MMA for fitness or competition in the U.S. alone, thanks in part to the ultimate fighting championship and its stars like Tito Ortiz, Conor Mcgregor And Ronda Rousey-13 year old Kaylee Bramlette's favorite.

Reporter: What does it teach you? Kaylee: "It teaches me self-defense," she says.                                                                               

Youth fighters are not allowed to strike their opponent's head or go for the knockout.  And a doctor exams each fighter before and after every competition

While there's is not enough data to show how dangerous the sport can be for children, pediatrician  dr. John tierney says it's important to minimize safety risks like concussions.

"We're always concerned about the growing brain and what damages that might have with a single injury or the accumulation of multiple injuries," notes pediatrician Dr. John Tierney.

Reporter: What's the hardest thing to do out here?  "Probably get the courage to stand up and say you'll do it," Kaylee admits.

Korey Mendoza says MMA changed his social life.   "It helped me make friends and be more confident around other people"

The American Academy of Pediatrics cautions against children having excessive media exposure to MMA contests .  It could put them at risk if they imitate what they see.  

(Danielle Nottingham, CBS News)

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