Even the most occasional and fleeting viewer of MMA through the prism of the Ultimate Fighting Championship cannot ignore the obvious brutality that accompanies the sport. Indeed, sport is a word which until very recently I would not have associated with MMA, such was the unsolicited violence that removes it from other fighting disciplines.

The manner in which social media lights up like a Christmas tree following UFC events with footage of spectacular knock-outs tells you everything you need to know about the way fights are digested. Society has a strange affliction with watching human beings try to tear each other apart, and in the UFC that is served up on a regular basis: it fuels an insatiable, yet unexplainable, appetite.

The aforementioned footage paints UFC as a pastime where strength and ruthlessness are the key pillars of competition. Such are the heavy beatings fighters hand out, you wonder how they rationalise their acts towards others merely in the name of competition. I am unwilling to promote specific instances here, but you won't have to search far or hard to stumble upon an act that verges on the inhuman.

Perhaps I am merely squeamish, but the limitless violence one fighter can subject his or her opponent to is, at best, unedifying. Once an initial breakthrough is made, technique and procession seemingly goes out the window: it becomes a test of inflicting as much damage as possible before your adversary can recover. Arms flail, legs pulsate and submissions suffocate and squeeze.

Ultimate Training Centre
Across three floors is the most sophisticated MMA training facility in the UK. UTCUK

Such scepticism ensured that when the opportunity came to visit and train at the UK's biggest MMA training centre, I was the primary candidate to fill the role. I belong to a desk where the UFC is, if not heralded, certainly accepted as part of the sporting landscape. The vast audience ensures it has quickly become a staple of online coverage for a number of websites, including our own.

The first thing to say about the Ultimate Training Centre, located in the modest town of Erdingham outside Birmingham, is the building itself dominates the high street on which it is occupied. Like the sport that co-exists inside, it has no interest in being anything other than the centre of attention.

Upon entering the centre you'd be forgiven for thinking you've just stepped inside a 10-pin bowling alley in the 1990s; club dance remixes blare out from the stereo at an unspeakable volume, jazzy blue carpet covers the floor while a punching machine occupies a dark corner. Though that is where the amateur demeanour ends.

Conor McGregor
McGregor remains the biggest UFC competitors for youngster to aspire to. Getty

Three floors later you get a decent insight into the sophistication of the building, and just what is required to build the next budding MMA superstar. For a sport that is yet to really explode in a competitive sense in this country, it is a world-class facility. Over 50 weekly classes take place under one roof, a 5,000 square-foot gym on the ground floor is followed by a full-size competition cage, a 24ft boxing ring and a large training mat, primarily for classes. The top floor is for dynamic, explosive training and is impressive in itself.

Passion radiates from owner Joe 'Silk' Cummins, an MMA competitor in his own right, but who now has a business interest in the sport. He is invested in the tale behind every fighter in his gym trying to become the next Conor McGregor or Ronda Rousey, two of whom will compete in the 20<sup>th UFC show to be hosted in the UK in London on 18 March at the O2 Arena.

After being put through my paces with a series of routine drills and circuits, it becomes apparent that MMA isn't a sport that shuns technical skills completely. Many of the moves require acute execution and a flexibility and energy even its boxing counterparts cannot rival.

Fitness is naturally a given but if Floyd Mayweather fancies taking on McGregor is n foot race when the two do eventually meet, the American would be soundly beaten over any distance. The vigour and explosive power required in MMA is perhaps the most striking aspect when faced with a couple of simple moves.

What you're probably expecting is a completing a U-turn in my perception of the UFC, from controlled street fighting to dazzling display of brute strength. The truth however is somewhere in between. The skill-set required is not purely about beating your opponent to a pulp, it is also about protecting yourself.

There is a vicious aspect that causes significant moment of trauma, which cannot be ignored, but it must be noted that boxers will endured far more head shots over a career of the same length. The UFC may not have dominated the world yet, but it is far from a unrelenting slog that it can often be depicted as.