Two little boys as young as eight compete in cage fighting contests in front of a baying mob of adults enjoying a night’s entertainment in UK.
The shocking images show the 8 and 9 year-old boys fighting with no padding, headguards or protection of any kind in what critics have described as “like a circus performance”.
The primary school boys have been trained to wrestle their opponents into submission as their fathers, pint glasses in hand, look on.
Unlike adult contestants, the little boys are not, in theory, allowed to punch, kick, knee or elbow each other during the competitions, but the rules are inevitably broken.
The footages show Kian MacKinson, the 9 year-old boy who has been cage fighting for nine months, while brawling with an 8 year-old, whose father has asked for him to remain anonymous.
The 8 year-old boy was left in tears in the middle of one of the terrifying 10 minute bouts before he was attended to by medics to check he could continue.
Yesterday, appalled doctors and child safety campaigners said the lack of headguards could cause brain injury or death and called for the “sick and disturbing” practice to be banned.
A Safechild children’s charity representative, Rosie Carter said:
“This is sick, absolutely disgraceful and I would call on social services to step in.
“I can’t believe the parents are allowing their young children to participate in this barbarity.”
A spokesman for the British Medical Association (BMA) said:
“Boxing and cage fighting are sometimes defended on the grounds that children learn to work through their aggression with discipline.
“The BMA believes there are many other sports which require discipline but do not pose the same threat of brain injury.”
The fight took place at the Greenlands Labour Club in Preston and was organized by joiner and professional cage fighter Steven Nightingale.
Steven Nightingale, 28, said the sport is safe and growing in popularity among children.
The fighter added: “Competitions start from the age of five it is definitely a big up-and-coming sport.”
When Nightingale was asked about the young boy who was crying during one bout, he said:
“The kid has never been beaten before, he is the one who wins the gold medals. When they get beaten, they are going to get emotional.”
Kian MacKinson’s father, Nick Hartley, 33, defended the event: “None of the children were ever in danger.”
“There is no harm in cage fighting at all.
“If he wasn’t cage fighting, he would probably be chucking stones at buses and giving people grief. But now he has learned some respect and he would rather go training than play out.”
There is no suggestion any of the bouts at the event, which took place earlier this month, breached any rules or licence laws.
Michelle Anderson, owner of Greenlands Labour Club, who attended the event, said: “There was nothing wrong with it.
“The parents were there. Would people rather these kids were out on the streets with guns and knives?”
Cage fighting, which are also known as mixed martial arts, encompasses a wide range of martial arts which are performed in circular cages. The sport has become popular partly due to reality star Alex Reid, its most high-profile figure in the UK.