Bangkok's REAL Fight Club where amateurs brawl in underground ring

The REAL Fight Club: Amateur fighters strip off their shirts to fight beside shipping crates in underground movement based on Brad Pitt movie that is now a huge success in Bangkok

  • The underground ring was started in 2016 to hold unsanctioned fights between willing amateurs
  • The fights take place beside shipping crates and are watched on by a huge baying crowd after its success
  • Like the film, there were initially no rules but now fighters have guidelines to avoid serious injury 

Everyone knows that the first rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club.

But in Bangkok, word of mouth has turned an underground street fighting ring into one of the hedonistic city’s biggest sensations.

Huge crowds gather between shipping containers to watch vicious unsanctioned brawls between two shirtless amateurs under the harsh glare of street lamps, inspired by the cult classic Brad Pitt film of the same name.

In the capital city of a country renowned for its highly technical martial arts scene, the amateur fighters brawl 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.

Amateur fighters kick and punch in Muay Thai at an event by Fight Club Thailand, an underground organisation that hosts unsanctioned fights

The fights allow for various martial arts disciplines but unlike the film, rules have been imposed to prevent serious injuries to the fighters

A man lights a flare on top of a shipping container in a parking lot in the Klong Toey district of Bangkok for the unsanctioned bouts

At the side of a busy road, Fight Club Thailand takes place under the glare of harsh spotlights and street lamps

Word of mouth has turned the underground street fighting ring into one of the hedonistic city’s biggest sensations

The 1999 David Fincher film (pictured) starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton was based on a Chuck Palahniuk novel of the same name

‘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 1999 film, to allow amateur fighters to test their skills or just vent their aggression.

‘I think the popularity is due to a variety of occupations and fighting styles that are different from the styles in the (professional) ring,’ he said.

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

‘It’s quite different (from traditional fights),’ he told AFP, expecting to dish out and absorb punishment using all four limbs.

He added, ‘fighting with containers surrounding us is just fun and exciting.’

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

A battered and bruised fighter is attended to by medical staff after he exchanged blows with another amateur in the ring

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

Chana Worasart founded the club in 2016, partly inspired by the 1999 film, to allow amateur fighters to test their skills or just vent their aggression

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

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 or 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.

Fighters are allowed to go all-out in a single three-minute round — with neither a winner or 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

An amateur Muay Thai fighter poses at an event held by the underground club in a parking lot off the side of a busy highway

One of the competitors warms up and stretches before entering the ring in one of Bangkok’s biggest new underground sports

Spectators and amateur fighters gather on the back of a lorry to watch fighters trade heavy blows in front of the baying crowd

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

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.

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?’

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.

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

When the club started in 2016, there were no clear rules, much like the 1999 film, but since then, guidelines have been imposed

A fighter with a Bart Simpson tattoo on his arm prepares for his unsanctioned brawl at an event held in the Thai capital

The setting for the underground scraps is a far cry from the glitzy martial arts rings, held by shipping containers at the side of a road

Fighters have their hands wrapped ahead of the eagerly-anticipated event which attracts large crowds in the hedonistic city

‘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.

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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