Inside the brutal world of slap fighting
Inside the brutal world of slap fighting: Stars lift the lid on vicious sport taking America by storm… and what it’s like taking a smack to the face WITHOUT so much as flinching
- Slap fighting is a sport entirely based on slapping your opponent in the face
- Many of the competitors are trained in other mixed martial arts sports
- Athletes told of the dangers of the sport and why they chose to participate
These are the men and women in the business of making viewers cringe as they risk their lives en route to being crowned ‘slap fighting’ champion.
Many are trained in other mixed martial arts sports, and have waded into unfamiliar territory with this ‘up and coming’ sport.
The aim of the game is simple: slap your opponent hard enough that they aren’t able to slap you back.
Competitors stand at arm’s length from each other and take turns slapping their opponent in the face.
They are not allowed to move, flinch, or defend themselves. As a result, the injuries are often brutal. The sport is becoming monetised over time, but there’s still not enough in the winnings for competitors to leave their day jobs, and one league still keeps earnings confidential.
These are the men and women in the business of making viewers cringe as they risk their lives en route to being crowned ‘slap fighting’ champion. Pictured: Slap fighter Julia Kruzer
Polish pro boxer and slap fight champion Ewa Piątkowska shared this picture of her injury with MailOnline after her last slap fighting tournament
Kortney Olson, who recently made headlines when she was knocked out in a competition, told MailOnline the sport goes against the cardinal rules an athlete is taught when training: to protect their head, neck, face, eyes, and ears.
‘In the post interview I said I’d do it again, but I had so much adrenaline pumping through me I’m not surprised I replied with such a dumb answer,’ she said.
Ms Olson was recruited to participate in her bout, and felt she ‘had to give it a go’. But her primary concern was figuring out how to train for it.
She reached out to other athletes in the industry, who suggested she practice hitting a pool noodle.
‘I literally didn’t sleep for the entire month… I was a shell of a woman going into this event,’ she said of the training and hype.
Ms Olson’s husband ‘sat her down’ to watch brain scans from soccer players who had spent their careers heading balls.
The aim of the game is simple: slap your opponent hard enough that they aren’t able to slap you back
Many are trained in other mixed martial arts sports, and have waded into unfamiliar territory with this ‘up and coming’ sport
‘Baby Ray’ slaps ‘the Bayou Bastard’ at a SlapFight Championship event, as seen on FITE TV
‘I remember getting hit, however, have no recollection of doing a forward roll. I then recall thinking, “you better hurry up and get back to the table to reset”, but I walked the wrong direction back to the table and they called it off because I clearly wasn’t in a position to get hit again,’ she said.
For two weeks after the slap, Ms Olson struggled to swallow. She had a two inch knot under her chin and a migraine for weeks.
She even questions whether her short term memory has deteriorated.
‘If there was oversight of the rules, it would still be dangerous, but slightly less. After watching some of the other knockouts, people are either moving their feet or slapping outside the face.
‘In my instance, I was drilled in the neck. I’m 100% confident my friend would have dropped any man standing in my position with the accuracy of her impact.’
Cringe-inducing videos of bouts are doing the rounds on social media, showing glamorous women standing nose to nose as they prepare for the fight.
Kortney Olson, who recently made headlines when she was knocked out in a competition, shared these pictures of the injuries she suffered from the slap
Middleweight Contender, ‘the Guardian’ takes a seat after being slapped down at a SlapFight Championship event
They take turns slapping one another, trying not to flinch as their opponent lands a blow.
‘You don’t have to worry about training for defensive purposes because you just got to stand there and accept it,’ a former MMA fighter-turned-slap champion known as ‘Wolverine’ told DailyMail.com. ‘As long as you got a good chin, to me, you’ll be fine.’
But even the hulking Wolverine was temporarily disfigured by the sport, which he considers more punishing than MMA.
‘If I feel like if I’ve [blacked] out for a second, I know that’s probably going to cause a concussion,’ slap fighter Frank ‘The Tank’, added.
‘It’s just kind of like the determination to continue,’ Frank said. ‘It’s just willpower.’
If there’s no clear winner by forfeiture, a winner is named at the end of the round. In one such video, two high profile competitors engaged in a passionate kiss at the end of the match.
There is rarely bad blood between competitors, and they often hug it out at the end of the tournament.
Polish pro boxer and slap fight champion Ewa Piątkowska told MailOnline she was warned trying slap fighting was ‘a bad idea’, but felt compelled to try it out anyway.
‘I was curious how hard it was comparing to boxing,’ she said. ‘I always knew I could take a punch, so I wasn’t afraid of getting knocked out.’
In her only match so far, she tied with her opponent. The winner of the men’s tournament won about €10,000 for a day’s work, and Ms Piątkowska said her ‘purse was also good compared to boxing or MMA’.
There is rarely bad blood between competitors, and they often hug it out at the end of the tournament
If there’s no clear winner by forfeiture, a winner is named at the end of the round. In one such video, two high profile competitors engaged in a passionate kiss at the end of the match
‘The day after the contest half of my face was severely swollen and bruised and it took more than an week to go off. I never looked that bad after any boxing fight,’ she said.
‘On the other hand, right after the fight I felt like I wasn’t hit at all, while after some boxing bouts or even sparring sessions I did feel a peculiar buzz in my brain for a few hours, it just felt different than usual.’
To prepare, she imitated the slap motion with resistance from a rubber band, but she enjoyed how little endurance training was required of her.
However, as the sport becomes more professional, she knows for future bouts she would ‘need to do more to prepare’.
‘I would train slapping a punching bag with something wide between us. The table forces you to lean forward, which diminishes your power, so I would try to overcome that,’ she said.
Polish pro boxer and slap fight champion Ewa Piątkowska told MailOnline she was warned trying slap fighting was ‘a bad idea’, but felt compelled to try it out anyway
Arnold Schwarzenegger has helped to legitimise the sport with his own endorsement. Pictured with competitor Julia Kruz
The sport was first popularized three years ago in Eastern Europe with a series of viral videos starring 370-pound Russian sensation Vasiliy Khamotiskiy.
Known as ‘Dumpling,’ Khamotiskiy was seen in one video knocking a massive opponent unconscious to win 30,000 rubles, which was about $475 at the time.
Other viral videos show Dumpling training by squashing watermelons and flipping tractor tires.
American slap fighter ‘Solid Slug’, who competes out of Atlanta, claims he trains for his bouts by slapping bricks.
JT Tilley, a veteran combat sport promoter who founded SlapFight Championship, previously said he’s hoping to establish stricter safety protocols for the largely unregulated sport before irresponsible and unscrupulous promoters force states to outlaw it entirely.
The social media exposure helped grow the sport into a pay-per-view event.
But the dangers of the sport were highlighted in October 2021 when a Polish slap fighter and body builder named Artur ‘Waluś’ Walczak was knocked down four times and suffered a cerebral hemorrhage at a ‘Punchdown’ event in Wrocław, Poland.
But the dangers of the sport were highlighted in October 2021 when a Polish slap fighter and body builder named Artur ‘Waluś’ Walczak was knocked down four times and suffered a cerebral hemorrhage at a ‘Punchdown’ event in Wrocław, Poland. The 46-year-old died in November from multi-organ failure, according to reports
Kortney Olson has no recollection of performing this forward roll after she was slapped during a contest
She’s now spoken out about the dangers of the sport and her lasting injuries
The 46-year-old was rushed to hospital, placed in a medically induced coma, and ultimately died in November from multi-organ failure, according to Polish reports.
In the aftermath, Polish authorities launched an investigation into the safety conditions for competitors at Punchdown 5, while promoters insisted that Walczak’s health remained highest priority after his fourth and final knockdown.
‘The competitor [Walczak] remained aware, but the disturbing neurological symptoms observed by the rescuers prompted them to call the ambulance service,’ read a statement from Punchdown.
Punchdown has since changed its name to Slap Fighting Championship.
SLAP FIGHTING RULES: READ MORE
- Two competitors stand at a podium and trade open-palm slaps
- The duel is watched by three judges – two directly observing the fight and one analysing replays
- Each competitor must have a mouth guard and ear protection in place
- There are three rounds a bout – in each of them, the participant has one hit
- There must be supporters near the competitor, to prevent them from falling after a slap
- Before taking their shot, the players rub talcum powder on their hands
- Feet position must be maintained before, during and after the slap
- It is forbidden to strike the temple, orbit, nose, ear, larynx
- The judges will make the final, irrevocable decision of the bout
- Competitors can also win via KO, TKO or disqualification
The sport is still on the rise in the UK. Most competitions are still male only, and don’t attract quite the same crowds as they do overseas.
However, major celebrities within the fighting industry are making the sport more mainstream.
UFC boss Dana White created his own Power Slap League, while YouTuber turned boxer Logan Paul and Arnold Schwarzenegger are also promoting the sport.
The format of Power Slap sees two competitors alternating unprotected face slaps back and forth with the aim of stopping your opponent from being able to compete.
Chris Nowinski, a Harvard Ph.D. and former wrestler who has criticized the sports world’s handling of concussions, took issue with one recent clip in which one combatant, Chris Kennedy, appeared to show immediate signs of a significant head injury, known as a fencing posture.
‘This is so sad,’ tweeted Nowinski, the co-founder and president of the Concussion Legacy Foundation. ‘Note the fencing posture with the first brain injury. He may never be the same.’
A fencing posture or fencing response involves victims’ hands shooting into an unnatural position with their forearms flexed outward.
As White told Just The Fights, he believes slap fighting is safer than boxing, where fighters can defend themselves, while being struck hundreds of times in a bout.
Slap fighting, on the other hand, typically involves only a few blows per match, although combatants are prohibited from defending themselves.
‘In Slap, they take three-to-five slaps per event. Fighters in boxing take 300-400 punches per fight. And guess what: you know what my answer to that is? If you don’t f***ing like it, don’t watch it.
The sport was first popularized two years ago in Eastern Europe with a series of viral videos starring 370-pound Russian sensation Vasiliy Khamotiskiy (pictured), who is known as ‘Dumpling’ in slap fighting circles
Inside the SlapFight Championship league paving the way for the European sport in the United States: READ MORE
By Alex Raskin
Tilley’s SlapFight Championship has strict weight classes and events are just seven or 10 rounds in order to limit punishment to competitors, all of whom wear mouth guards and ear protection in the form of cotton balls. Just as importantly, fight doctors have the power to stop bouts, all of which take place on a thick foam pad to cushion any falls.
There’s also detailed restrictions on slapping to prevent combatants from getting their eyes gouged or being bludgeoned with the heel of the palm. Furthermore, SlapFight has a three-knockdown limit, a 60-day suspension for combatants following each competition, and a 90-day suspension for anyone who gets knocked out.
‘People will think of it as probably the most extreme and dangerous thing,’ said Tilley. ‘But what they won’t realize is that they’ll be an ambulance and an EMT and a medical doctor and three judges and two sanctioning representatives [at an event]. And so we do try to keep it really safe, but we give the appearance of just a really, really dangerous sport.’
Fortunately, Tilley said, SlapFight Championship yet to suffer any major injuries.
The promotion’s safety protocols stand in stark contrast to rival slap fighting competitions in Europe, where critics have questioned the effectiveness – and the mere existence – of any drug testing.
To Tilley, a safer atmosphere in the US has helped to legitimize the sport.
‘Nobody was really taking [the sport] very seriously, but the more I watched it, the more I realized that if you did it right, you could see a tremendous battle of wills,’ said Tilley, who began promoting SlapFight Championship events in 2019. ‘If you just put two guys in there that were the same size and you put some rules in place to keep them from getting brain injuries, I thought, ”Man, maybe everyone would want to watch that as much as I would.”’
Tilley appears to be right. Not only has SlapFight Championship drawn more than 500 million views on social media and YouTube, but the promoter has inked broadcast deals in India, Germany, Italy, Southeast Asia and with FITE TV in the US.
Other American-based organizers have followed that lead, including Arnold Schwarzenegger and YouTuber-turned-boxer Logan Paul, who partnered with Slap Fighting Championship to promote an event at the retired body builder’s annual sports festival in Columbus, Ohio.
‘I love the absurdity of it,’ Paul told USA Today ahead of the March 5 event. ‘I love the idea that two guys could just stand across from each other and just slap each other and see who falls down first. It’s hilarious to me. It’s like, how is that a real event? What the f*** is that sport?’
Paul struck a more serious tone in a promo, calling slap fighting ‘one of the most entertaining’ and ‘fastest growing’ combat sports.
Schwarzenegger said he agreed to include slap fighting at the 2022 Arnold Sports Festival after seeing the crowd reaction at previous events: ‘I thought it was a great idea, because I saw it on video and social media and I thought the audience was extremely enthusiastic.’
Conversely, Tilley’s SlapFight Championship isn’t selling any tickets, but that’s by design.
As he explained, much of the sport’s growth occurred during the pandemic, which forced competitions away from big crowds and into private facilities, like abandoned warehouses. That not only added to the atmosphere, creating a bit of an outlaw vibe, but also served as a sobering influence on other promoters.
By forgoing ticket sales and even gambling revenue – at least for the time being – Tilley believes he is disincentivizing rivals who might otherwise try to cash in on slap fighting’s surging popularity.
‘We don’t sell tickets and have big overstated shows because we feel like that’s just gonna draw more promoters into the sport before it’s developed,’ Tilley said.
Adding some mystery, Tilley’s fighters compete under stage names, which serves two purposes: It prevents rival promoters from identifying and poaching SlapFight’s talent, and it helps to attract younger fans, who enjoy the wrestling-style showmanship.
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