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Are there real-life fight clubs?

Fight Club: Life Imitates Art

Members of the Gentlemen's Fighting Club in Silicon Valley tussle in 2006.
Members of the Gentlemen's Fighting Club in Silicon Valley tussle in 2006.
Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

For the most part, these real-life fight clubs are by invitation only and are usually shrouded in secrecy. Fighters generally have to know someone (or at least know where to look) to find the location where a fight club will be held. One underground outfit in San Francisco, organized by a man known as "Bloody Knuckles," uses the free Web site craigslist to distribute information about fight nights [source: SFGate].

The rules surrounding these fights are usually very simple: Fighters can do just about anything to one another with their unarmed bodies, but once a fighter loses consciousness or calls it quits, the fight is over. Like the Palahniuk story, Bloody Knuckles' rules prohibit spectators; the only ones allowed to observe fights are other fighters either resting between matches or anticipating the next fight [source: SFGate]. In other words, if you come, you have to fight.


Other real-life fight clubs have far less structured rules. One held weekly by the SB Rats motorcycle gang in Oakland, Calif., often consists of a number of people fighting one another in the ring at the same time as teams. These fights are sometimes used for gang initiations, with prospects -- potential gang members -- proving their toughness in the ring. And unlike Bloody Knuckles' fights, anyone who wants to watch can show up without fear of being pressed into fighting [source: San Francisco Bay Guardian].

California appears to be the fight club capital of the world. Another fight club, populated by computer and tech entrepreneurs and employees, meets in Silicon Valley biweekly to pound on one another. In contrast to most other fight clubs, this one allows weapons such as frying pans and tennis rackets [source: AP].

With all of this media exposure, it's tough not to wonder why these formerly underground fight clubs aren't busted up by the police. The answer is that, for the most part, they're not illegal. Consenting adults who feel like fighting in a private place don't generally break any laws. And most states don't consider it boxing, so long as none of the fighters are paid [source: AP]. Law enforcement takes an entirely different view of fight clubs when they involve minors, however. A spate of videos compiled from teenage fight clubs hit the Internet in the decade following the release of the "Fight Club" book and movie, and police scrambled to break up suspected fight clubs in their jurisdictions. In some cases, arrests were made. Teens in Arlington, Texas, were among many indicted around the U.S. after videos from fight clubs they organized were linked to them [source: USA Today].

Even in fight clubs involving adults, fighters showing up at the hospital with injuries like broken ribs and noses will likely draw unwanted attention from local police. This is one of the problems associated with real-life fight clubs; their very secrecy encourages fighters to amateurishly nurse their own wounds or ignore them altogether. And more than one person has died from such unregulated fights.

Still, they remain popular among some people. And most reports of fight clubs also include a requisite postulation on why people take part in them. Some fighters say they do it for the thrill of the experience [source: San Francisco Bay Guardian]. Others say they do it to overcome their fear of violence being inflicted upon them, sort of a self-inflicted aversion therapy [source: SFGate]. And if Chuck Palahniuk's characters are to be believed, it's a great way to regain control of one's life by reconnecting with a part of civilization that has long been swept under the rug.

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