TWELVE-YEAR-OLD Lexi Walton has earned a chance to show her MMA skills on the world stage.

The Blackwood youngster impressed selectors enough to be given a place in the Wales team for the 2020 IMMAF World Youth Championships.

The event is due to be staged in Rome this August, but the coronavirus pandemic means organisers are looking for an alternative location in case travel restrictions are in place at the time.

Wherever it’s held, Walton will be there alongside her Welsh team-mates who also came through the trials process.

But, as dad Mark explains, his daughter got the nod from the selection panel despite an injury scare.

“Lexi went to the trials and was sparring with a girl towards the end,” he said. “Unluckily, she injured her knee and had to come off the mat.

“She said it popped so we took her for an x-ray but fortunately everything seemed alright.

“When it happened, we weren’t sure whether she had been selected or not, but obviously she must have shown enough of her skills before then.”

He added: “I had an email about two weeks later saying that Lexi had been selected and she would be heading out to Italy with the rest of the Wales team.

“Everyone in the team will be fighting people from all over the world, and it seems that Wales have got a massive team going out there.

“The family will be going out to watch Lexi, including her younger brother Leon who has been asking me if he’s going.

“You’ve got to be at least 12 to take part – she wasn’t old enough to go to the trials last year – and this is another stepping stone for Lexi.”

The Walton siblings, who have a combined age of 19, are now getting some of their boxing tuition in the Rhymney Valley.

As well as Sonny's Boxing Gym, Lexi and Leon travel to Gelligaer ABC, the gym of legendary Welsh trainer Dai Gardiner.

“We went into the gym not knowing anyone,” added Mark. “They do a lot of classes there, but I needed them to have one-on-one sessions.

“Dai, the coach there, took them on the pads and he was amazed. He said, ‘fair play, that’s talent you can’t buy’.

“They said I could bring the kids over any time I want.”

Lexi and Leon are also looking for sponsorship from local businesses to help them fund their training, competitions and equipment.