‘Fight­ing for their fate’: Chi­nese kids adopted by MMA club

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

The 13-year-old fighter in train­ing starts his day at 8 am. Af­ter a quick break­fast, he heads to a gym in south­west China where more than a dozen other shirt­less teenage boys are kick­box­ing, wrestling and grap­pling-hold­ing one another in full­body grips un­til one per­son yields.

Abieamu is among the kids from the Ti­betan plateau who were adopted into the Enbo Fight Club in Chengdu, the cap­i­tal of Sichuan prov­ince. Many were or­phans or came from im­pov­er­ished homes, and were con­nected to the club through the lo­cal civil af­fairs bureau.

Though most of the club’s ac­tiv­i­ties are gov­ern­ment-sanc­tioned, Chengdu po­lice launched an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the mixed martial arts (MMA) group earlier this week af­ter a video show­ing two 14-year-old boys in a bruis­ing cage fight be­fore a roar­ing crowd went vi­ral last week.

Lo­cal au­thor­i­ties could not be reached for com­ment Fri­day. The ed­u­ca­tion depart­ment in Liang­shan Yi Au­tonomous Pre­fec­ture told Chi­nese me­dia that the un­der­age fight­ers have been re­turned to Liang­shan and may be matched with new schools. A coach for the club told AFP that most of the kids have re­turned to the Ti­betan and Qiang Au­tonomous Pre­fec­ture of Aba, where they are con­tin­u­ing their train­ing.

En Bo, the club’s Ti­betan founder, was for­merly in the mil­i­tary, and has spent the last 18 years run­ning am­a­teur MMA fight­ing studios. Enbo Fight Club boasts more than 200 mem­bers, with kids com­pris­ing just a small frac­tion.

“As long as they meet my stan­dards, we take kids of all eth­nic groups, in­clud­ing the Qiang, Hui, Yi and Ti­betan mi­nori­ties,” En Bo told AFP in June. “We have a team that man­ages their health and safety, as well as teach­ers who are re­spon­si­ble for their school­ing.”

The kids’ hous­ing, food and clothes are all pro­vided by the club, En Bo said, and they re­ceive ex­tra “schol­ar­ships” if they win fights. But many com­men­ta­tors on­line were alarmed by the web doc­u­men­tary, streamed on the site Pear Video, in which the kids’ spar­ring ap­peared to be sold as a com­mer­cial spec­ta­cle.

In the footage, two thin, pre­pubescent fight­ers are seen in an oc­tag­o­nal steel cage. One knocks the other down and pro­ceeds to bash him re­peat­edly about the head and body as the los­ing fighter cow­ers on the mat. Mod­els wear­ing bikini tops and short jeans cheer and a man with a mi­cro­phone whips up the crowd by say­ing the boys were “fight­ing for their fate.” “These kids are tougher than your kids,” the MC says. “Their story is more touch­ing than your kids’. And they have had it much harder than your kids.”

The video was a point of fierce de­bate on China’s Twit­ter-like Weibo plat­form. “Solic­it­ing and us­ing mi­nors to en­gage in com­mer­cial per­for­mances which are also vi­o­lent, while de­priv­ing them of a salary, is il­le­gal,” wrote one user named Chen Ming.—AFP

CHENGDU: This pic­ture taken on June 2, 2017 shows youth prac­tis­ing mixed martial arts (MMA) dur­ing a train­ing ses­sion at the Enbo Fight Club in Chengdu. — AFP

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.