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Brutal real life ‘Fight Club’ sees fighters brawl on streets of Bangkok

THAILAND’S brutal real-life fight clubs see amateur fights slog it out in front of baying crowds.

BRUTAL real-life Fight Club exists in the streets of Bangkok where amateur fighters brawl in front of baying crowds.

Shocking images show two shirtless men fighting in a makeshift ring set up between some shipping containers in a Thai adaptation of the 1999 Fight Club.

Combatants in Thailand's brutal underground 'fight clubs'

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Combatants in Thailand’s brutal underground ‘fight clubs’Credit: AFP
One amateur Muay Thai fighter poses during the unsanctioned contest

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One amateur Muay Thai fighter poses during the unsanctioned contestCredit: AFP
The martial arts battles reference the 1999 film of the same name

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The martial arts battles reference the 1999 film of the same nameCredit: AFP

In the capital city of a country renowned for its highly technical martial arts scene, amateur fighters gather regularly promising to exchange only blood and bruises in the underground club.

While the bout resembles a particularly frenzied boxing match, the setting – in a poor port-side neighbourhood – is a far cry from the glitzy charms of Muay Thai boxing stadiums.

“Here you don’t have to know how to fight. You just need to have heart and that’s it,” club co-founder Chana Worasart told AFP.

The 30-year-old founded the club in 2016, partly inspired by the cult Brad Pitt movie, to allow amateur fighters to test their skills – or just vent their aggression.

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He said: “I think the popularity is due to a variety of occupations and fighting styles that are different from the styles in the (professional) ring.”

That’s certainly the appeal for the 23-year-old contestant and grocery store owner Surathat Sakulchue.

Fighters are expected to use all four limbs to dish out and absorb punishment, and are “quite different” to traditional Muay Thai fights, he explained.

He added that “fighting with containers surrounding us is just fun and exciting.”

Unlike the movie’s famous line banning fighters from talking about their club to outsiders, the Bangkok-based outfit calls itself “the ring that will change violence into friendship”.

The group has become a local sensation, with a private Facebook group racking up 73,000 members as word spread of the underground matches.

Fighters are allowed to go all-out in a single three-minute round — with neither a winner nor loser declared — but the bouts aren’t quite no-holds-barred.

Elbowing, grappling, throwing opponents to the ground and punching to the back of the head are strictly prohibited.

Unsurprisingly, the gatherings have not escaped the notice of the Thai police.

Authorities were alerted in 2016 to the underground matches — which allegedly violated the Boxing Act, punishable with a one-year jail sentence and fines of up to about $600 — but despite a small police presence on occasion, the fights have continued.

Meanwhile, the club insists it is not governed by the Boxing Act, meaning organisers are not holding unsanctioned fights.

Co-founder Chana says the group is approved by the Department of Provincial Administration.

“I don’t oppose the idea of turning this into legal, sanctioned fights, but at the same time, we can’t lose the underground identity, so the question is ‘where is the balance?'”

Despite the brutal appearance of the fights, there are strict rules

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Despite the brutal appearance of the fights, there are strict rulesCredit: AFP
'We don't ask fighters to kill each other,' the organiser said

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‘We don’t ask fighters to kill each other,’ the organiser saidCredit: AFP
Fights take place in car parks and other hard-to-find locations in Bangkok

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Fights take place in car parks and other hard-to-find locations in BangkokCredit: AFP

It is all a far cry from the scrappy club’s beginnings when there were no clear rules.

Now there are fighting guidelines, screening procedures, a risk-acceptance pledge as well as protective equipment and on-scene medical care.

“We don’t ask fighters to kill each other. If you’re too tired or too injured to go on, then we’ll stop the fight,” said Chana as another bout began.

After paying his respects with folded hands and touching gloves with his opponent, amateur fighter Ilya Ostroushchenko gets to work.

Landing a kick to his opponent’s torso, Ostroushchenko bashes out a combination of punches, and a left hook to the face finally sends his opponent stumbling to the rubber mat.

The crowd enthusiastically roars “Somchai” – a traditional, masculine Thai name given to the Russian – as the bout finishes.

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Seemingly cool and composed during the fight, the 22-year-old Russian told AFP it is nerve-wracking right before stepping into the informal ring.

“My hands shake. My knees shake also, but when I go out to the centre, I feel good,” he said.

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