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Sandy - Ready or not, mixed martial arts has become mainstream. More and more sports fans are watching UFC on pay-per-view and other MMA events. That trend holds true in Utah with local fights grooming local fighters who dream of becoming UFC champions. Kearns high grad DaMarques Johnson is one of those fighters. He is starring in the MMA reality show "The Ultimate Fighter" and is just two wins away from earning a six-figure UFC contract.
"This isn't a sport for the fairweather type. It's not like a pickup basketball game at the church. You're gonna bleed, you're gonna sweat a lot, you're gonna ache, you're gonna be sore. If you don't love it you're not going to put up with it for very long." said DeMarques Johnson, "You might put up with it for a couple weeks, maybe even a couple months. The sport just has a way of weeding you out."
DeMarques trains at Elite Performance Gym in Sandy. A gym owned and operated by one of the biggest names in MMA, Jeremy Horn.
Jeremy Horn is an MMA pioneer and legend. He has fought over 130 fights and has more wins than anyone in UFC. He has defeated UFC champions Forrest Griffin and Chuck Liddell.
Horn is also one of the best trainers in the world having trained four UFC champions. Since moving to Utah he has placed four fighters on "The Ultimate Fighter", including DaMarques Johnson.
"It's exciting," says Horn, "it's really raw, it's a sport I love. I have a good time training guys. I have a lot of tough guys that are getting going and I'll have another crop of champions coming up really soon."
Horn has a big fan in Johnson, " I owe everything fight wise to Jeremy Horn and all the guys at Elite Performance."
"People watch the NBA. People can't go down the road and train at an NBA gym. In MMA you can. You can watch people on TV and go to the gym and train. The sport is new enough that there's a good chance you can get a career as a fighter."
Jeremy Horn is just one of the reasons why mixed martial arts is growing rapidly in utah.
"It's kind of strange," Horn says. "We have half a dozen good gyms and trainers around here. It's flying under the radar. A lot of people think that the midwest is a hot spot for MMA as well as both east and west coasts, but there are a lot of talented people here in Utah. I think people are just starting to realize that now with the people we've had come on he ultimate fighter show out of the gym here."
Horn doesn't see the rapid growth slowing anytime soon.
"We're not going anywhere. I'm not sure if it's an exact fact, but I know it's one of, if not the fastest growing sports in the world. From obscurity five years ago, to being on the cover of ESPN the Magazine. You don't find much that can keep up with that."