What’s the latest sports trend for kids?

It’s getting in a cage and training to be M-M-A fighters! In fact, new statistics show that more than 3 million kids under age 13 are taking Mixed Martial Arts classes, where they basically learn how to kick, punch and put each other in head locks! Some kids even fight in real MMA matches. And if you go on YouTube, you can find hundreds of videos of boys and girls as young as 5 fighting MMA-style.

Jonathan Burke owns an MMA training gym in Florida, and he says this trend is all about helping kids get into shape, while improving their mental focus and discipline. Plus, many parents see MMA as an effective way to help kids stand up to bullies. For example: Baseball all-star Prince Fielder recently started MMA training with his two sons, after they were bullied in school. And he says he’s doing it because he never wants his kids to lose confidence, just because of what a bully says!

To protect kids from injuries, they must all wear head masks and gloves. And during competitions, kids often have two referees in the MMA cage, instead of the usual one.

But even with those precautions, experts say MMA for kids isn’t always safe. After all, with kids punching and kicking each other, there’s still a high risk for injuries – including concussions. And according to child psychologist Dr. Andrew Pittington, some research shows that over time, MMA fighting could potentially turn kids into bullies themselves.

That’s why he says it’s important for parents to find MMA schools that teach good values first – like self-control and discipline. Otherwise, kids may get the wrong idea, and think MMA makes it okay to attack, intimidate, or bully other people.