According to the South China Morning Post police in Chengdu, Sichuan Province have begun investigating Enbo MMA Club after a video of two young boys cage-fighting went viral. The video, which profiles Enbo MMA Club, makes startling claims about the organization’s practice of adopting 400 street children and training them to become fighters. Subsequent reports have claimed the boys are being trained to either enter the world of professional mixed martial arts or for careers in specialized police forces.
The controversial video that has thrust Enbo MMA Club into the regional spotlight was posted on July 23rd by Pear Video. The New Strait Times reported that the video had sparked ‘outrage in China’ after being viewed over 12 million times on Chinese social media platforms.
The six-minute-long film showcases dozens of pre-teens training in MMA at Enbo, under the watch of gym manager Dong Zhou. The video then focuses in one two of the club’s ‘members’: Xiao Long (14) and Xiao Wu (14). Long stated that he is from Liangshan before describing a life of daily MMA training at Enbo. When asked about his parents, the young boy claimed his father had died and that his mother had ‘ran away.’
Wu, who also claimed to be from Liangshan, told the video crew that his grandmother sent him to the MMA club after he admitted a fondness for martial arts. Wu also claimed both his parents were deceased. Both boys stated they dreamed of one day joining the UFC.
The video also exhibited fights between Enbo students, including a brawl in an outside cage between two children - who appear much younger than 14 - named as Emu and Ajie. A commentator can be heard saying, “Ajie’s nose is bleeding,” as a decent size crowd watches the young boys fight.
When asked if the children are paid to fight each other, Wang Zhou - a coach at Enbo - said, “more or less.” The coach then stated that the club manages what the fighters earn and provided money to the children when they needed it. Zhou would not reveal how much money the children were earning.
The video also features En Bo, the club’s founder. He’s asked how he came to adopt the estimated 400 children he has training at his gym. Bo’s answer was that the Chinese Civil Affairs Bureau had signed off on his adoptions, whether the children were orphans or from impoverished families. “They agree with it, and seal it, [and] send them to here,” he said.
According to ECNS Bo is a former armed police officer who lost his father when he was 8-years-old. At 18, Bo reportedly starting training in ‘free combat’ before joining the police. That report claimed that after retiring from the police in 2001, Bo worked in construction to raise funds to launch his club, aimed at helping the orphaned children he had encountered in the mountains and city streets. South China Morning Post quoted Bo as saying he started his club to stop children turning to crime. In his ECNS interview Bo claimed that some of his students had become members of China’s special police forces.
In the Pear TV video, the gym founder enforced the importance of ‘flexibility’ for his young fighters, threatening that any which don’t meet his standard of suppleness are likely to be ‘eliminated’ from the club. Xiao Long is shown spending time after regular class to train the ligaments in his legs to be more bendy, for fear of being one of those eliminated and sent back to Liangshan.
On Monday, club supervisor Zhu Guanghui told the Beijing Youth Daily (h/t SCMP) that police were now investigating Enbo MMA Club.
Child fights aren’t unique to Enbo Fight Club (or China). Last year World Fight Championships of Akhmat featured child fights at an event in Grozny, Chechnya. Competing in these bouts were the sons of Chechnya’s Head of State Ramzan Kadyrov. This incident drew the ire of legendary MMA heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko, resulting in an uncomfortable situation for Russian President Vladimir Putin, as outlined by Bloody Elbow’s Karim Zidan.
The news of Enbo MMA Club’s adoptions and child fight nights is just the latest in a string of unusual MMA stories to come out of China this year. Last month a photographer with Agence France Presse gained access to an underground Chengdu fighting venue known to locals as ‘Monster Club’, prior to that police in Shanghai busted an attempted MMA vs. Tai Chi mass brawl, which was instigated by Xu Xiaodong; the MMA fighter who went viral after he knocked out a Tai Chi master in May.