Miikka Pirinen: Fight League Kids

Miikka Pirinen: Fight League Kids
International Photography Grant 2019

When you think of MMA fighters you are likely to envision beefy men who have a whole extra set of muscles on top of their shoulders, or perhaps what you’ve learnt about the sport from film and television. But as Miikka Pirinen captures in his fascinating series Fight League Kids there is a whole separate sphere of the sport that caters to juvenile fighters and their families.

Miikka Pirinen, a freelance photographer based in Helsinki and who works as part of the Helsinki Street photography collective first heard about this sub-strata of MMA fighting after watching an online video of a group of kids fighting at a competition in California. He was keen to learn more about what motivates both the kids and their families to take part in the sport, so he travelled to gyms and competitions in Arizona and California to meet the contenders.

The photographs he collected after spending time with the fighters, the trainers and family members who support them are slightly bewildering and intriguing. Capturing the excitement and exasperation of onlookers, as well as the commitment and at times vulnerability of the child ‘cage-fighters’ the series seeks to highlight the different activities that kids can participate in, not just the traditional set of extra-curricular sports.

Website: www.miikkapirinen.com

Mixed Martial Arts fighter Brock Locnikar, 8, in the octagon, takes precious advise from his corner men Clay Carpenter and Thiago Azeredo during United States Fight League(USFL) All-star Pankration show at Blue Water Casino in Parker, Arizona on 25th of October 2013. Photo: Miikka Pirinen

Mixed Martial Arts fighter Brock Locnikar, 8, in the octagon, takes precious advise from his corner men Clay Carpenter and Thiago Azeredo during United States Fight League(USFL) All-star Pankration show at Blue Water Casino in Parker, Arizona on 25th of October 2013. Photo: Miikka Pirinen

Crowd cheering young MMA fighters at United States Fight League(USFL) All-star Pankration show at Blue Water Casino in Parker, Arizona on 25th of October 2013. Photo: Miikka Pirinen

Crowd cheering young MMA fighters at United States Fight League(USFL) All-star Pankration show at Blue Water Casino in Parker, Arizona on 25th of October 2013. Photo: Miikka Pirinen

Mixed Martial Arts fighters Justin Ramirez, 7, and Chris Arrey, 7, fighting in the octagon in United States Fight League(USFL) All-star Pankration show at Blue Water Casino in Parker, Arizona on 25th of October 2013. Photo: Miikka Pirinen

Mixed Martial Arts fighters Justin Ramirez, 7, and Chris Arrey, 7, fighting in the octagon in United States Fight League(USFL) All-star Pankration show at Blue Water Casino in Parker, Arizona on 25th of October 2013. Photo: Miikka Pirinen

Youth Mixed Martial Arts fighters in the octagon in United States Fight League(USFL) All-star Pankration show at Blue Water Casino in Parker, Arizona on 25th of October 2013. Photo: Miikka Pirinen

Youth Mixed Martial Arts fighters in the octagon in United States Fight League(USFL) All-star Pankration show at Blue Water Casino in Parker, Arizona on 25th of October 2013. Photo: Miikka Pirinen

Crowd cheering young MMA fighters at United States Fight League(USFL) All-star Pankration show at Blue Water Casino in Parker, Arizona on 25th of October 2013. Photo: Miikka Pirinen

Crowd cheering young MMA fighters at United States Fight League(USFL) All-star Pankration show at Blue Water Casino in Parker, Arizona on 25th of October 2013. Photo: Miikka Pirinen

Regina "Black Widow" Awana, 7, with her Championship belts, posing for her sponsor at United States Fight League(USFL) All-star Pankration show at Blue Water Casino in Parker, Arizona on 25th of October 2013. Photo: Miikka Pirinen

Regina “Black Widow” Awana, 7, with her Championship belts, posing for her sponsor at United States Fight League(USFL) All-star Pankration show at Blue Water Casino in Parker, Arizona on 25th of October 2013. Photo: Miikka Pirinen

Regina "Black Widow" Awana, 7, playing with her favorite doll, Ariel, with friends before her fights. She won all fights this night. United States Fight League(USFL) All-star Pankration show at Blue Water Casino in Parker, Arizona on 25th of October 2013. Photo: Miikka Pirinen

Regina “Black Widow” Awana, 7, playing with her favorite doll, Ariel, with friends before her fights. She won all fights this night. United States Fight League(USFL) All-star Pankration show at Blue Water Casino in Parker, Arizona on 25th of October 2013. Photo: Miikka Pirinen

Mixed Martial Arts fighter Cade Rogue, 9, hugs his dad Jason, before fighting in the octagon in a United States Fight League(USFL) All-star Pankration show at Blue Water Casino in Parker, Arizona on 25th of October 2013. Photo: Miikka Pirinen

Mixed Martial Arts fighter Cade Rogue, 9, hugs his dad Jason, before fighting in the octagon in a United States Fight League(USFL) All-star Pankration show at Blue Water Casino in Parker, Arizona on 25th of October 2013. Photo: Miikka Pirinen

"Wrecking Crew" of Power MMA gym, AZ, is one of the most talented and well known MMA teams in the West Coast. Mesa, Arizona, November 20th 2013. Photo: Miikka Pirinen

“Wrecking Crew” of Power MMA gym, AZ, is one of the most talented and well known MMA teams in the West Coast. Mesa, Arizona, November 20th 2013. Photo: Miikka Pirinen

William Reid, 10, at a private boxing class in Power MMA gym, Mesa, Arizona, November 19th 2013. Photo: Miikka Pirinen

William Reid, 10, at a private boxing class in Power MMA gym, Mesa, Arizona, November 19th 2013. Photo: Miikka Pirinen

Cheyenne Bowman, 11, at personal MMA practice with coach Craig Wilkerson, a professional MMA fighter. La Habra, CA. November 11th 2013. Photo: Miikka Pirinen

Cheyenne Bowman, 11, at personal MMA practice with coach Craig Wilkerson, a professional MMA fighter. La Habra, CA. November 11th 2013. Photo: Miikka Pirinen

Cheyenne Bowman, 11, after personal MMA practice. La Habra, CA. November 11th 2013. Photo: Miikka Pirinen

Cheyenne Bowman, 11, after personal MMA practice. La Habra, CA. November 11th 2013. Photo: Miikka Pirinen

Cheyenne Bowman, 11, at personal MMA practice with coach Craig Wilkerson, a professional MMA fighter. La Habra, CA. November 11th 2013. Photo: Miikka Pirinen

Cheyenne Bowman, 11, at personal MMA practice with coach Craig Wilkerson, a professional MMA fighter. La Habra, CA. November 11th 2013. Photo: Miikka Pirinen

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International Photography Grant 2019