MMA provides a space to escape for war-weary Afghanistan

Mixed martial arts takes off in Afghanistan not only as entertainment, but also a constructive pastime for young people in a country ravaged by war and poverty.

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN (REUTERS) - Amid booming music and cheering fans, Afghans gather to watch the country's first professional mixed martial arts (MMA) fights to help distract them from the deadlier violence that continues to plague their country.

Sports like cricket and soccer often garner national attention in Afghanistan, but others see sports like MMA not only as entertainment, but as an opportunity for young people to excel at a sport.

Some fighters said they dreamt of the next step being international competitions.

So far only young men have competed in the handful of competitions, but organisers say they are training women fighters, and the walls of the club feature posters of American MMA fighter Ronda Rousey.