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Sport catching on locally after 12-year ban

READ MORE: Sport catching on locally after 12-year ban
WILMINGTON -- It is among the fastest growing spectator sports in America. After being banned for the past 12 years mixed martial arts events are now allowed in North Carolina and they are catching on locally. Ultimate fighting is just one of the events people train for at a new mixed martial arts gym called 'evolution.' Jeremy Owens with the Evolution Mixed Martial Arts Academy said, "You use boxing for the striking, mui ti for the kicking, wrestling for the take down and Brazilian jusido for the submission." Owens opened Evolution the same week Gov. Easley passed the law allowing mixed martial arts fighting in North Carolina. The sport had been banned since 1995. Owens said, "Some of the reasons they brought it back were a lot of the rules were changed in mixed martial arts events, making it safe for the athlete." Before fighters had almost no rules. They could kick to the groin, head butt and fight people much smaller than them. Now there are weight classes for different sized fighters, and time limits on the event. Knees to the head while a fighter is on the ground and head butts are not allowed. "An athlete can tap out at any time ending the fight. The referee can stop the fight at any time. There is no standing 8 count and it makes it safer for the fighters," Owens said. In mixed martial arts fighting, also known as ultimate fighting, the fight ends three different ways: submission, knock-out or referee stoppage. Even with the new safety regulations in place some people think the sport is still too gory. Patti Lewis watches ultimate fighting. She said, "It's just graphic, it's a lot of blood and a lot of people call that violence. I guess it is violence, so yeah, I wouldn't say children should watch it." Owens said, "There's violence, but as long as it's done in a safe professional manner there's no problem with it. These are conditioned athletes who train for this all their lives to compete in these events." Because the event can lead to bleeding, a fighter's blood is tested before each fight. The action of MMA events has built a large following all over the US.

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