Trading Blows in Chengdu’s Fight Club

The global phenomenon of mixed martial arts and the UFC has been on a global tear in recent years. So when I recently received a WeChat message from a friend about a “UFC style fighting club” recently opened in Chengdu’s Poly Center, I was curious. My interest was heightened when he added: “My friend says there’s blood and teeth flying. You should go.” The next message which only said “Not entirely legal” cemented my interest.

The entry price of 60 rmb paid via WeChat seemed like a paltry sum to witness amateurs volunteer to get punched in the face in Chengdu’s notorious Poly Center, so I bought two. I was excited to see what the atmosphere inside a Chengdu fight club would be like, and to bring a friend with some MMA knowledge, so I went with Jerry S, local Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and fellow American.

The Flyer

Monster Fight ClubThe promotional flyer was sparse on info, listing the four fighters of the evening along with their name, weight and occupation:

  • Zhao Yiding, 75kg chef
  • Wu JiaHao, 75kg “car wash”
  • Li Guowei, 70kg teacher
  • Din Huang, 68kg clerk

Full resolution flyer: Monster Fight Club flyer

Finding Monster Club

After being introduced to Monster Club over WeChat, I was connected with one of the organizers, a burly 20 year old Sichuanese local named Vito. Describing himself over WeChat so I could find him on the street: “I am short but strong, wear black police boots and jeans”. Vito is about 5’6”, weighs 100 kilograms, and looks like he lifts weights between meals.

After meeting Jerry and Vito outside of Poly Center Building D, which hosts Monster Fight Club, we took the elevator to the 4th floor. Going up the elevator it was clear that the tatted people around us smoking in the elevator were headed the same direction as we were. Affliction t-shirts adorned with flames and skulls are a dead giveaway.

Stepping Inside

Stepping inside with Vito, we were enveloped by the purple glow of backlights and confronted an imposing, all-black cage on the first floor. A staircase on the right wrapped around the cage allowing spectators to watch from above. The room was starting to fill up before the first fight, scheduled for 10pm.

Monster Club

Entrance to Monster Fight Club includes an open bar, except they do not serve beer: only vodka and gin. I grabbed a vodka on the rocks and went upstairs to stand along the second floor railing.

Monster Club

While waiting, loud dubstep music blared through the speakers, creating an atmosphere of chaos and aggression in this entirely black room slickly illuminated with ambient lighting. A single spotlight shone directly into the middle of the octagon cage below.

The Fights

The first fight was between the clerk and the teacher. The teacher had undeniable marks of a Sichuanese local: potbellied with fresh cupping bruises across his back and a shaved head with a tuft of hair on top, as commonly seen on Chinese infants.

Monster Club

The tenacity of the fighters was impressive, and due to the 15 foot diameter of the cage, both fighters are confined to a very small space. There is no room to hide. After taking some shots to the face, the fight went to the ground where the teacher put a heel lock on the clerk. Wincing in pain, the teacher did not want to give in. As the crowd cheered, he lied on the mat in pain as the teacher eventually submitted his adversary to cheers. The fight lasted about five minutes.

Monster Club

During the 15 minute wait between fights, Jerry was bombarded with offers to step into the Monster Fight Club ring to demonstrate his grappling skills. Word of his work as a jiu jitsu instructor in Chengdu had spread. After repeated attempts, would-be match makers including Vito left us alone to watch the fight, moving to a few other expats in the crowd.

Monster Club

The second fight featured two semi-professional fighters, both employing signature muay thai punches, kicks, knees and elbows. Their physical condition and ability of these fighters far exceeded the first two, but the fight was over quickly when one fighter was submitted on the ground after being punched in the head.

Monster Club

Afterwards

After the second fight was over the dubstep soundtrack resumed and Monster Fight Club quickly begun to clear out. On our way out we passed a table of Monster Fight Club magazines, one showing a smiling and bloodied man reminiscent of Edward Norton in Fight Club. The other showed a Chinese man getting punched in the face with the message “Fight! Release yourself”.

Monster Club

If you are used to watching UFC, this is not quite that. This is a hybrid of Fight Club’s depiction of blue-collar locals seeking visceral excitement through combat, and the organized sport of mixed martial arts. The skill of fighters does not come close to what you’ve seen in UFC matches, but there is a gritty realness to knowing the real-world occupation of someone getting choked within your physical proximity. And since this is inside the Poly Center, many of Chengdu’s most well-trafficked bars (like Here We Go and NASA) are in an adjacent building.

Monster Club

Would I go again? Yes, especially with friends visiting from out of town. Hopefully Monster Fight Club sticks around grows toward greater legitimacy. I can see a scene growing around this place.

Monster Fight Club Info

If you’re interested in checking out Monster Fight Club, here are the details:

  • Name in Chinese: 成都约架酒吧
  • Location: Poly Center Building D, 4th Floor
  • Hours: Friday, Saturday and Sunday night at 8:30pm
  • Cost: 100 rmb at the door or 60 rmb in advance. Tickets can be purchased through WeChat
  • Monster Fight Club on Douban

If you visit, I recommend getting there by 9:45pm and securing a good position on the second floor. The best view is right along the rail, directly above the cage.

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Charlie

About Charlie

Having lived in Chengdu for ten years, Charlie has traveled to every corner of China and back again, calling the Yulin neighborhood of Chengdu his adopted home.

21 Responses to “Trading Blows in Chengdu’s Fight Club”

  1. So sad seeing the afflictions of white trailer trash infecting another culture. I hope you all enjoyed the blood spatters and people being punched.

  2. Ray

    Kimbo Slice would approve wholeheartedly. Gotta check this place out (before it gets shut down) 🙂

  3. JerryS

    It was an ‘interesting’ event but fun none-the less. I wish there were more fights, if this gets bigger of course there will be more fights.

    I loved how the ‘foreigners’ watching kept talking loudly trying to impress the girls they are with with their ‘knowledge’ of MMA, kinda hilarious.

    And the people who kept on bugging me to ‘display my skills for street creds..’ Yea no thanks, no need for brutality which will only inflate my ego and deflate my pocketbooks with the night stay at the hospital, those guys who tried to pressure me does not know the consequences of fighting and only see the glory… Also for free? That’s just asinine. I can easily get a fight within China for some dough.

    Yet with all those negatives, i would still go there and watch dudes duke it out, I love MMA and fighting arts, so why watch these guys until the cops shuts it down!

    • That sounds very interesting. I would be interested in checking it out. Though even as a hardcore MMA fan, I don’t think that unsanctioned fights are a good thing for the sport.

  4. Hise

    nicely written article, charlie, very descriptive and the pics make the story even more clear. (the cage looks like it’s duct taped together!). i do agree with Heike: it’s just punching people in the face, why that gained so much popularity (even among my more pacifistic hippy friends) is a total mystery to me. Vito has become a friend of mine since he at an almost daily base visits my bar after training. i don’t earn much on him since he doesn’t drink but we have nice conversations. he told me the monster club is a cooperation of six sportschools and he is preparing to get in the ring himself this month. it’ll be the first time and the last time i am going to visit an event like this. he looks totally the type but we actually talk about art and philosophy together and he studies to upgrade his english. awesome guy, i’ll show him the article.

    • Charlie

      Hey Hise,

      That is really interesting to hear. He certainly looks the UFC type, but it’s cool to hear that he has such wide interests. Just yesterday I saw a flyer for an upcoming event called MFC (Monster Fighting Championship) which will offer a 50,000 rmb prize. That is crazy large.

      About the popularity of MMA: it is amazing how quickly it has become one of the biggest sports in the world, selling out enormous stadiums on a regular basis. I think to say that MMA is just punching people in the face is grossly misunderstanding the sport (if anything, what you describe is boxing). It is the first sports which puts martial arts that we all grew up with (tae kwon do, karate, wrestling) and puts them into an actual-use scenario. What we have learned about unarmed combat through MMA is incredible, it has drastically changed the landscape of martial arts, which have existed for thousands of years, all around the world. It is very visceral and easy to understand – everyone understands getting choked or getting kicked in the ribs, so it is not like many other popular sports which require understanding often byzantine rule sets (American football is a good example, very difficult to learn/understand).

  5. Ray

    At a low -level like this club, more often than not it is two minimally-skilled guys duking it out. That quickly becomes tiresome (like Kimbo’s doco “Dawgfight”). At higher levels, like UFC/Belator, where, the full skill set is on display, it’s often intriguing. I always tell people new to the sport “don’t focus only on the hits, but also on what the guys are doing to NOT get hit or submitted (such as knowledge of reach and distance when striking, or takedown defence when grappling). It may not always seem like it, but often the blood and “getting punched in the face” is a small part of what MMA is about. But sure, without question, it can be a brutal sport…

  6. Greg

    Is this still running? And if so how can I book tickets if I cant read/speak Chinese?

  7. philgreg9

    Hey is this thing still running? I’m moving to chengdu in 2 weeks and would love to watch some of this!

    • Charlie

      I believe it is still running, yes. I heard that it was shut down but heard that it was back after that. I am not certain though, haven’t been in a few months.

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