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      The rise of Mixed Martial Arts in the Midlands

      COLUMBIA (WACH)- Mixed Martial Arts is viewed in many different ways. Some believe it's violent and shouldn't exist, while others enjoy the art and train for the cardio. Then there are those that do it for a living.

      Better known as MMA, the full combat sport has been around since the ancient Olympics, but boomed when the Ultimate Fighting Championship were formed and bought by the company Zuffa in 2001.

      As for South Carolina, the sport never really took off until 2009 when the state made it legal to fight and compete in MMA. Since then, Columbia has held many fight nights and produced professional fighters, including Tim Goodwin.

      Goodwin wrestled at Appalachian State University before falling in love with MMA, and has worked his way to the top of the 135-pound weight class. He has earned a fight with Bellator, UFC's biggest competitor, February 14 in Charlotte.

      "This guy I'm fighting on the 14th is standing in the way of my dreams," Goodwin said. "He's trying to ruin my life so I've got to get in there, hurt him and get him out of my way so I can move on and move forward."

      Goodwin has been training at Columbia Martial Arts in Lexington, owned by Mark Mills.

      While some fight full-time, there are others who train in the sport to get away from the everyday grind. Monica Burns is one of those.

      A teacher in the Midlands, Burns trains by night at Lance Adams' gym Fudoshin Jiu Jitsu.

      "Teaching can leave you with a lot of pent-up aggression at times," Burns said. "MMA was a really good outlet for me to get all of that out."

      In a sport dominated by males, what would make a woman want to get on the mat and "ground-and-pound?" For Burns, it's the satisfaction of knowing self-defense.

      "I lived by myself for the longest time, and I would get home and look around with my lights on waiting for someone to jump out at me," Burns exclaimed. "With MMA training, I don't feel like I have to worry about that now."

      Mixed Martial Arts and its supporters have made it clear: It's here and it's here to stay.

      Just like any other sport, blood, sweat and tears are all involved. Only in this case, it comes by way of a punch or a kick.