Mixed-martial arts fighting -- part traditional boxing, part kickboxing, part-wrestling -- has gone from a fringe group of guys who'd seen Fight Club one too many times to a bona fide cult phenomenon complete with packed arenas and pay-per-view events. A recent fight at George Mason sold out.
A Woodbridge, Va., fighter named Levi Sadr was 2-0 going into a fight last September. Shortly after the bell rang to start the second round, he hit the mat fast and hard.
"I just got hammered the one time, and then the second hit knocked me out," Sadr said. "After that, you can count in the video, there's 13 times. I get hit 13 times while I'm unconscious. My nose was shattered. ... I've got three plates in my mouth."
Sadr, 26, spent five days in the hospital and racked up a $40,000 medical bill. When News4 caught up with him recently, he was training for the upcoming world championships in California despite doctor's orders to stop fighting.
Dr. Dawn Thornton, who works in the ER at Inova Fairfax Hospital, isn't sure MMA fighting should even be considered a sport. She is certain its popularity may be equaled by its danger.
"The incidents of actual neck injuries, be it either a frontal assault here or a spinal assault there, and the incidents of permanent joint injury is much more in this particular sport," she said.
For her, the biggest problem is how most fights are won: tap-out (submission) or knockout. If anyone is crazy enough to get into a cage to risk it, they should at least be young, Thornton said.
"It's a young sport and it's for the young which means that after 20 or 25, you're gonna have to go and do something else."