Kids in MMA: How the Youth in the Sport is Becoming More Commonplace

(Photo courtesy IMMAF)

History will be made this weekend as this will be the first time a mother and daughter will fight MMA on the same card.

Cindy Dandois and her daughter Lola will be taking part of the Conquest of the Cage event near Spokane, Washington Saturday. Mom will be competing in pro MMA against Bethany Christensen; while her daughter will be making her amateur MMA debut against the Juliana Pena trained Darina Glassburn.

What has surpassed this headline is the ages of Lola and Darina: 12 years old.

Having pre-teens competing in MMA is nothing new. Several of our Future Star athletes have competed in MMA as young as 10, with the most prominent being Courtney Drew Cordonza dong it at age 12  in 2013 (see below).

Cindy Dandois has confirmed to us there are several rules implemented for the bout, with shin pads and bigger gloves; no knees or elbows to the face; and no heelhooks and neck cranks. Christine Anthony of the Washington State Licensing Department told MyMMANews that she would never let a fight like this happen since both participants are so young.

Many of the pre-teen fights in the past consisted of modified rules, many including no strikes to the head at all, similar to the Youth Pankration rule set.

The IMMAF has already seen that the demand for youth competition in MMA; as they are looking to make MMA an Olympic sport. This past week, they held world championships in their youth divisions – divided by age group and weight. Their age limit is 12 years old. They have set up modified rules which you can read here.


The main reason for concern is concussions. The more concussions you get, the more damage your brain has in the long run. Many youth sports have already banned head related blows including football and soccer (no players allowed to strike a ball with the head until a certain age). The Youth Muay Thai championships use head padding in their sport. (Rule set here).

As MMA progresses, the younger athletes are going to find ways to train as young as they can. Competing is the natural evolution of this. With protocols in place, hopefully the idea of pre-teens competing in fighting can be both safe and less taboo.

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