Germany is a sniffy country where people go to the nearest hospital emergency room for a cold – it can turn into pneumonia. Germany is a land of heroes, where people love tough fights and don't mind blood being spilled – at least from the audience. “MMA Fighters in Germany” is the name of a ZDFinfo documentary about the boom in blood and stress sports. The three episodes of the media collection pay homage to the “agony” and “struggle” in the “highest discipline of martial arts.” The only things that are forbidden are non-magical things like poking the eyes and attacking the throat and collarbone. Until 2015, TV stations were banned from broadcasting in Germany – it was too brutal. The popularity of “Mixed Martial Arts” has increased since the corona: hard times, hard sport.

“I will not accept defeat!”

It begins as everything begins: with exercise. Niko Samsonidze, 28, completes a five-kilometer morning run before kicking and punching in Berlin. This is surprising: Samsonidze studied “social work”, which is a mixture of psychology, pedagogy and sociology. Now he shows how he can work not with his head, but with his fist, knee and leg. His next fight is scheduled to take place in two and a half weeks. Katharina Dalisda (31) from Frankfurt with cauliflower ears is also in the hot training phase. Another week and a half and then he wants to be in title contention. When he turned five, he started practicing judo. Then came kickboxing. Then, as he says, things fell into place. “I was an insecure, shy kid,” she remembers. Today, he says, “I'm not someone who accepts defeat.”

“Everything is designed to destroy your opponent!”

There are still 48 hours left to fight for Niko Samsonidze. He weighs 66 kilos. He has already been on a diet. Now he has to sweat out the water: two kilos are still missing, “completely relaxed,” says the fighter. Katharina Dalisda has already moved on. He has his ankles taped for the fight in the Frankfurt cage in front of 10,000 spectators: “Everything there is designed to destroy the opponent, at that moment there is no mercy.” . In the third round, the opponent is destroyed, the Australian and the fight is over. Katharina Dalisda's championship belt hangs from her belt and there is still a drop of blood under her nose. A 31-year-old woman screams her joy out of her body. And Niko Samsonidze?

“Like an anaconda, getting tighter!”

Samsonidze is enjoying the invasion, celebrating it and still smiling in the cage. He will face a Moldovan who is five years younger and ten centimeters shorter. Then the joy is quickly over. In the first seconds, the 28-year-old man was hit in the head with a right hand. But then he squeezes the opponent's neck between his thighs. “It's,” explains the trainer, “like an anaconda, it gets tighter and tighter.” The referee quickly stops the fight. Four minutes and ten seconds. Not a five-minute fight after months of preparation. “Things are going very, very well now,” says fighter Samsonidze, who always seems completely relaxed in private. This can be a real win. Hardly any fighter will get rich in Germany. Some, the manager reveals, get into the ring for only a few hundred euros. According to ZDFinfo, this sport is extremely dangerous, with statistics showing 229 injuries per 1,000 fights. It is very special when medical student and amateur world champion Anna Gaul explains in front of a skeleton, which is especially common in MMA.

“I didn't say corner!”

Why do viewers love these fights where almost everything is allowed and almost nothing is forbidden? In the third episode, heavyweight David Balevski wins despite breaking his arm in the first round. “I didn't shoot,” he tells the camera afterward, “I didn't tell the corner either.” Maybe there's just nothing better than watching other people suffer. Before the viewer goes to the nearest emergency room with a cold.

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