Although many people have not participated in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), it has recently gained popularity amongst students at Newbury Park High School. Using a combination of skills from boxing, kickboxing, wrestling and jiu jitsu, MMA fighters can use their own techniques and focus on certain skills to make their style their own.

Noah Galvez, senior, first started MMA the summer before eighth grade when he was 14-years-old. Participating in MMA allows him to fully focus on the sport, removing all other stressors in his life for the two hours he practices. “It makes you tough after doing MMA, everything else is a little bit easier. Like when I’m doing MMA, school is the last thing stressing me out even though it used to be a big stress to me,” Galvez said.

Some may say MMA seems like a toxic environment due to its unique features, such as fighting, however, Galvez believes in the family-like community created from this sport. “[The community is] way more friendly than you’d expect for a sport about hurting each other. I’d say most recently, like the best experience I have, is the wrestling team. Every single practice we’re going there to again try to throw each other and slam each other, but I think those are the closest [people] I’ve had to brothers outside of my actual brothers,” Galvez said.

David Ortiz, junior, has been doing MMA for a few months and has found it to be a great way to release stress. “I joined MMA because it is a great way to release my stress and learn techniques since I have passion for this sport and want to become professional in the future,” Ortiz said. He also stated that MMA has helped him gain strength.

Coach Thor Skancke, a MMA coach at Pugilist Gym, has been teaching Martial Arts in some shape or form for the last 18 years. He first started practicing MMA 25 years ago and became a pro MMA fighter in 2007.

Although he spends more time practicing Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai, he believes that practicing MMA incorporates a combination of skills that has a positive impact on one’s life. “MMA makes a person stronger and more flexible, it enhances one’s ability to withstand discomfort and improves your everyday life even outside MMA,” Skancke said.

For many students, MMA is a sport that students can learn life lessons from and gain long lasting relationships that will aid them through life. “MMA is definitely something I’m gonna be doing until I’m like not able to do it, until my body is failing me. […] It’s always a great community. It’s always like a family,” Galvez said.