GROWING: Ben Pepper has expanded his Grow Strong MMA gym from Warwick into Stanthorpe. The former junior Australasian tae-kwondo champion wants to see more take up the sport.
GROWING: Ben Pepper has expanded his Grow Strong MMA gym from Warwick into Stanthorpe. The former junior Australasian tae-kwondo champion wants to see more take up the sport. File

Born to do martial art

MARTIAL ARTS: It's one of the worlds fastest growing sports so why should Stanthorpe be any different.

Mixed martial arts has evolved from barbaric brawls to a sport focused around fitness and finesse.

Warwick-based Grow Strong MMA, led by Ben Pepper, expanded into the Granite Belt nearly 12 months ago and it has gone from strength to strength.

"I've been doing martial arts since I was eight so about 22 years. Some people play footy their whole life, some people are an arts person and combat sport has just kind of been my thing since I was little.

"I think you're just drawn to something in your life, doesn't matter what it is, and I just liked the fact I was accountable if I won or lost, it was on me. I didn't have anyone else to blame or cheer for if I did well or did poorly,” Mr Pepper said.

The junior Australasian tae-kwondo champion runs an all ages Brazilian jui-jitsu class out of Stanthorpe State Primary School's sports stadium.

"When I started out I was doing an adults and a kids class and sort of was only getting people for one or other so i just made one class. Now I've got five-year-olds training and some dads joining in as well.

"I think we've gone from where for six months we were only getting three to four to up to 20 now,” he

said.

The popularity of MMA has escalated in recent years, partly owing to the popularity of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). But Ben said many of his students are more focused on fitness.

"For teenagers and guys in early twenties yeah probably (about UFC) - but generally for everybody else the motivation is more fitness or self defence based.

"I'd say 99 per cent are there to learn something new or get a bit fitter.”Ben runs his classes in Stanthorpe on Tuesday from 4-5pm. He said he's keen to see more teens get

involved.

For more information visit www.facebook.com/ Growstrongmma.

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