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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- When people think of Charlotte sports, mixed martial arts probably isn't the first one to come to mind. Even so, the popularity of MMA in Charlotte is exploding.

Illegal until 2008, the now highly regulated sport is attracting young professionals looking for physical, mental and even emotional challenges.

NBC Charlotte's Dianne Gallagher and photojournalist Thomas Wilson went behind the scenes of Charlotte's most successful "underground fight club"-Fight Lab-which brings thousands of fans to its monthly events.

Professional Mixed Martial Artist Joe Pecheco, an East Gaston High School graduate, left his job in the corporate world to fight professionally full-time for a major sponsor. Kurtis Cloward is still working toward that goal- scheduling fights around his day job.

These men give NBC Charlotte a closer look at what today's Mixed Martial Artist is all about and why they feel the sport is growing in the Queen City.

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