Police in China are investigating a mixed martial arts fight club involving hundreds of orphans and abandoned children, some as young as 12, according to reports.
The training ground for tomorrow’s aspiring MMA stars is featured in a six-minute video showing dozens of undersized fighters sparring and training as they explain what brought them to the Enbo MMA Club in China’s southwest Sichuan province.
“My grandma asked me, ‘Do you like martial arts?’ Then I said, ‘Yeah, I like it,’” Xiao Wu, 14, explained. “So she brought me here.”
The club, which has trained more than 400 fighters since 2001, is now under investigation after footage of exhibition fights surfaced online, some depicting children as young as 12, the South China Morning Post reports. The club’s manager, Zhu Guanghui, has said the club is now cooperating with authorities, according to the Beijing Youth Daily.
“A MMA club in Chengdu has been training more than 400 fighters who’re orphans,” according to the video. “These children either lost their parents, or lost the someone they could rely on.”
The clip includes footage of a trainer relaying the scant options left for some of the teens, many of whom reportedly came from poor regions of China.
“‘Some people said, ‘I give up, I wanna leave, I’m going back,’” trainer Dong Zhou says. “What can you do back home? Shepherd cattle or pigs? Or be a beggar? Or be a gangster?”
Xiao Long, 14, said he joined the club 10 months ago after his father died and his mother abandoned him in Liangshan prefecture.
“Wake up and training, then take a shower,” the teen said of his daily routine. “Then sleep. And then wake and training, like that.”
Both boys have their sights set on eventually joining the Ultimate Fighting Championship, where they could fight in the same octagon cage as one of their heroes.
“Conor McGregor is my role model,” Xiao Wu said.