In July, YouTube channel Pear Video uploaded a short documentary featuring Enbo Fight Club in Chengdu, Sichuan Province. The video showed dozens of young boys training at the MMA gym, which was founded by former police officer En Bo. The video also showed two boys cage-fighting in front of an audience.
The video claimed that Enbo Fight Club had ‘adopted’ hundreds of orphan children from poor regions in China over the past decade. The video also included a club trainer admitting that the boys are ‘more or less’ paid to fight, with the club buying them things when they needed them.
The reaction to the video was fierce in China. The documentary went viral and authorities in Sichuan and Liangshan (where some of the young fighters were from) gave statements that questioned the legality and appropriateness of Enbo’s set-up.
In late July it was revealed that authorities had removed two orphans from the club and returned them to their home counties in the Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture. Liangshan is one of China’s poorest regions and children from the Yi ethnic group who live there have long been targeted by human traffickers for forced labour across the country.
This week, via China.org, it was revealed that a further 19 children have been removed from Enbo Fight Club. The removed boys were described as either orphans or ‘left-behind’ children with parents who work away from home. The boys have been returned to Butuo and Yuexi counties in the Liangshan area.
According to Song Ming, an information officer for the Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture, local governments in both Butuo and Yuexi will “ensure that schools will admit” the boys ahead of a new school term that begins in September.
Investigations into Enbo Fight Club began as soon as the Pear Video documentary went viral, with child-welfare and education officials from Liangshan visiting the club in person. That investigation allegedly showed that the club had no teaching certifications or signed adoption agreements.
This news comes two weeks after the South China Morning Post reported that at least two children from Enbo Fight Club did not want to leave the Chengdu based gym. The outlet quoted Xiaowu (via Beijing News) - one of the boys featured in the now infamous video - as saying he did not want to return to his hometown in Butuo because he feared becoming addicted to drugs or becoming a migrant worker like his parents.
“I came here to learn MMA with a purpose of changing my fate and realizing my dream,” said Xiaowu, who told media his goal was to win a championship title in the UFC.
SCMP also reports that children at Enbo refer to the club’s leader as ‘Godfather’. The children interviewed claimed that En Bo treated them well, taking them on trips to the zoo and allowing them to try Western food for the first time. That outlet also reported that En Bo ‘justified’ the existence of his fight club, saying he had not done anything illegal.
En Bo is reported as saying his club did not abuse, abduct, or force the children to do things. However, he did admit that there were some aspects of his club that needed improving, such as ‘signing contracts’ with the children who went there. En Bo also claimed that he had spent four to five million yuan ($600,000 - $750,000) a year on caring for the children. This money reportedly came from sponsorship deals pertaining to the MMA matches organized by the club.
It is unclear how many more orphans or ‘left behind’ children remain at Enbo Fight Club.