2018 has been a busy year in combat sports; martial arts centres are thriving, young Cumbrian fighters are reaching milestones and seeing international success.

Workington has a number of boxing prospects on the rise. Rugby star Tom Walker recently returned to the ring after a hiatus and won a tough charity boxing bout. Walker stepped away from boxing to focus on his rugby career, however, after returning to Just Grind in November he has once again: "got a taste for it." Tom looks to fight for Just Grind when he is out of rugby season.

Billie Donaldson has been toiling in the amateur boxing ranks for two years now. on December 8 she competed in England Boxing's Women's Winter Box Cup, one of the most high profile tournaments of her career. Billie took the silver, missing-out on the gold by a narrow margin. Donaldson's team argued that the scoring was unjust but she will get the chance to avenge the loss in January.

Gary Taylor is looking ahead to a future in boxing after making the move to Just Grind. Taylor of Maryport won a points decision on December 15 against a more experienced opponent. It was the first bout at his new camp in which he defeated Bobby Shah at Stanwix Park in Silloth.

In a dramatic night at the O2 Arena, Whitehaven's Kevin Thompson made history, winning the BKB British cruiserweight championship. Thompson's fighting spirit dragged him up off the canvas in round one to finish the fight in the third. Mason Shaw and Thompson fought in the first ever legal exposed knuckle wraps.

In beating Shaw Thompson placed himself at the head of the pack in a fledgling sport. Whitehaven's Thompson, who now trains for Just Grind full-time could compete on national TV in the future. BKB have recently reached a TV deal with Sky Sports to broadcast their events.

Cumbria has a strong Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu showing. Tapout Knockout have a legion of young BJJ players some of which won medals in September's Junior European BJJ Open. An end of year seminar took place on December 16 which saw masses of participation and a promotion to blue belt for Tom Johnston, also an amateur kickboxing world champion.

Just Grind are also thriving in BJJ, hosting seminars with some of the world's best practitioners. Matheus Diniz held a seminar in November and Sukata BJJ's Gary Savage returned to the Workington gym in early December. High level coaching is clearly paying off for the students; JP Hasley won gold at the Empire No-Gi Grappling Open.

Zinedine and Elliot Hodgson have excelled in karate this year, consistently returning from tournaments with medal hauls. They graded on December 2, achieving second dan black belt. Long-term pupils and assistant coaches, Aaron Ross and Jenna Poole advanced to fourth dan. Lisa Reeves, one of the first people to step over the club's threshold, achieved fifth dan, a lofty accolade in the karate world.

2019 looks to be a big year for Just Grind, boxing coach Dave Straughton said: "I've never been more excited about the future of the gym." In the new year, powerlifting equipment will be installed to offer classes and enhance the strength and conditioning regimes of their athletes.

Tapout Knockout are also due for an upgrade as they will move into a new facility under the Empire Sports Performance banner. Frank Johnston has collaborated with Nathan and Darren Askew on the project. Nathan will offer classes in calisthenics with boxing and martial arts coaching from Trevor Cunningham and Darren Askew.

If the local scene is anything to go by, combat sports will continue its already rapid expansion well into the future.