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Photographer exposes underground ‘Monster’ fight club in Chengdu, China

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A recent photo essay reveals the secrets of a fight club located in southwestern China.

Night Life In Chengdu
FILE PHOTO - Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China
Photo by China Photos/Getty Images

Fred Dufour, a Beijing-based photo-journalist for the Agence France Presse (AFP) released a photo essay this week that revealed the inner workings of ‘Monster Club’, an underground street-fighting establishment in Chengdu, Sichuan Province. Dufour attended a night of fights at Monster Club on June 2nd, snapping over a dozen pictures of fighters facing off in a small and dimly lit cage.

According to Dufour, Monster Club hosts around four fights every Friday night and that participants compete for a $75 purse. The club’s cage is 172-square-feet and the venue allows for some 120 spectators to crowd around the fighting floor, with many of them close enough to reach into the cage. The establishment was founded in November, 2015 by a former Chicago resident who was inspired by the 1999 film Fight Club.

Fight Club is based on a 1996 novel of the same name, written by Chuck Palahniuk. The story follows an unnamed protagonist who suffers from insomnia and a general malaise over being what he terms ‘a middle child of history.’ The character later finds some meaning in his life after establishing an underground fight club for similarly disenfranchised men.

For his piece Dufour spoke with one of Monster Club’s founders/owners; who went by the name ‘Huoche’ for the interview. Huoche revealed that since 2015 there have been around 2,000 fights at the venue featuring fighters from 28 different countries. The owner also explained that willing participants sign up to compete online and are then matched based on weight and fighting experience.

Huoche said he hopes to make Monster Club a fight-sports landmark in Chengdu and to continue to encourage martial artists and brawlers from across the world to test their skills in his cramped fighting pit. "The Monster belongs to all ordinary fighters," he said.

Since its inception, Monster Club has experienced numerous visits from the local authorities. “When we started up, local police thought we were a gang-like [operation],” Huoche told Dufour. According to Dufour’s piece, officials were concerned over the legality of the fights being promoted at Monster Club. Eventually Huoche and his business partner acquired permits that allowed the fights to continue, providing the competitors wear grappling or boxing gloves and that each competitor is insured by the club.

Even after being quasi-regulated, Monster Club’s relationship with officials remains complicated. "Police don't fully support us, but they don't oppose us," said Huoche.

A complete gallery of Dufour’s images from Monster Club can be viewed here via Australia’s Gold Coast Bulletin.