August 23, 2014 1:33 PM EDT

Mixed martial arts, or MMA as it’s widely known, is a combination of boxing and Brazilian jujitsu, where almost anything goes during a fight. The sport, widely practiced in Europe and Japan, was unknown in China just a decade ago.

“I didn’t know MMA existed before, when I started fighting in the competition in 2006, I thought it was great fun because there were almost no restrictions,” Chinese fighter Wu Haotian told AFP.

Recently, an increasing number of athletes in China are turning to the sport, which is seen as a springboard out of rural poverty: Fighters can compete for prizes of up to $10,000 in fights in the United States and Hong Kong, the AFP reported.

In the video above, take a look inside a Chinese gym that has already sent several fighters to the U.S.-based Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).

Contact us at editors@time.com.

Read More From TIME

Related Stories

EDIT POST