Police in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, are investigating a mixed martial arts (MMA) club that has taken in hundreds of orphaned boys and trained them as fighters who participate in commercial MMA events, according to the South China Morning Post.
The Enbo Fight Club came to public attention after a six-minute mini documentary (in Chinese with English subtitles) by Pear Video went viral. In the most shocking scene, two 12-year-old boys fight brutally against each other in a caged arena surrounded by a cheering crowd. The video claims that the club has “adopted” more than 400 children from impoverished areas, most of whom are orphans.
“Every day, I get up early for training. Then I take a shower and sleep, and go back to training again. That’s it,” said Little Long 小龙, a 14-year-old boy whose father is dead and whose mother had abandoned him. Another boy, Little Wu 小吾, who is also 14 and has been in the club for three years, told the reporter that he was sent by his grandmother after he lost his parents. “I felt frustrated and overwhelmed by cheers, chants, and lights,” Little Wu explained, recalling the first time he fought in a road show. “But after I got used to it, I became excited and more eager to fight.”
In the documentary, the founder of the club says that all kids are “affirmed by the Civil Affairs Bureau,” and that the club occasionally eliminates those who fail to complete training sessions. When asked if these little fighters get paid, a club coach replies, “More or less.”
Online opinion on the news has been mixed. On the one hand, many internet users praise the club for offering the orphans a better life. “At least they have a future now. What’s the alternative? Hanging out with beggars? Those who criticize the club online only offer lip service, but they’ll never do anything in real life to help these kids,” one commenter wrote (in Chinese).
Others are calling for a clampdown on the club. “These children seem to be exploited by the club. Since they have not received any education at school age, they will be a huge problem for society when they grow up,” one person stated.
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