The evolution and growth of mixed martial arts has been staggering in recent years. The UFC and other promotions are here to stay. KGW recently visited the Next Level Martial Arts studio in Tigard to see how the sport is catching on locally.

There are moments in training, especially when you see yourself progress you actually say wow I took a step forward, said fighter Shams Moussaoui. That really gets you excited like I m going somewhere with this.

It s getting bigger. The fans are just really connected to it, said Greg Thompson, the head trainer at Next Level Martial Arts. People used to ask, what s mixed martial arts, what s UFC. Now more often than not a person has heard about it. They might not know a ton about it, but they re familiar with the sport.

Thompson has worked with many fighters over the years, including UFC star Chris Leben.

There s no big secret: time and consistency, showing up and training hard, quality instructors and putting in the time.

Thompson took up the sport 12 years ago for self-defense as a deputy sheriff. Now he helps some who just want to get in shape and others who are serious about the sport.

You have to have great endurance. You have to have speed and explosiveness. You ve got to have good agility. You have to have a little bit of everything, said Thompson.

It s physically challenging, it s mentally challenging, said mixed martial artist Eben Kaneshiro. I just like that challenge. It s what s kept me interested all these years.

It s a very hard and intense sport, said Moussaoui. It s not for everyone but at the same time you have to remember if you want to be the best, you have to be willing to make those sacrifices and endure a little bit of pain.

Thompson says there isn t anything more competitive than one-on-one combat sports.

MMA fans in Portland can catch local fighters in action at the Rumble at the Roseland 56. It s happening April 23rd at the Roseland Theater.

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