Boys' fight in cage 'very barbaric' says Jeremy Hunt


The organiser of the event in Preston said it did not breach any rules and insists children's safety was not compromised

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A fight between two boys watched by adults at a cage-fighting event has been described as "very barbaric" by the Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

The boys, aged eight and nine, were filmed wrestling in a cage at a Labour club in Preston in front of about 250 adults on 10 September.

Club manager Michelle Anderson said the boys were not put in danger.

But the deputy leader of Preston's Labour-led council called on the club not to stage any more junior fights.

Start Quote

I would liken it to a game of chess, it's about outsmarting your opponent”

End Quote Spokesman for Sharefight Company which filmed event

A video posted on YouTube showed the boys had no protective padding or head gear at the event at Greenlands Labour Club. They were also seen receiving medical attention.

'Share the shock'

"Getting more young people doing sport is great but I do ask myself whether it really does have to be in a cage," Mr Hunt said.

"It just feels to me, it feels very barbaric and I know there are concerns about children that young doing a sport like that.

"I think if adults choose to do it, that's one thing. I suppose I do share some of the shock.

"We have to recognise that sport has a very, very important role but I think with this particular sport, I think some people will ask some questions."

Councillor John Swindells, deputy leader of Preston City Council, who said the council would be reviewing the club's licence, said: "I would ask Greenlands Labour Club not to put on any future cage fighting events involving children.

Nick Hartley said the fight was "not one bit dangerous"

"I will certainly be asking the licensing committee to tighten the conditions so that such events involving children are not allowed to happen in Preston.

"I, and many people in Preston, cannot just ignore or condone this cage fighting event involving children taking place in our city."

Club manager Michelle Anderson, 39, earlier said the boys were not cage-fighting but "grappling".

She said the boys "loved it" and were not in danger.

The father of one of the boys, Nick Hartley, said his son had not been at risk

"He loves the sport. It's not one bit dangerous, it's a controlled sport," he said.

'Threat of injury'

But the activity has been criticised by children's charity the NSPCC.

It said the the fight was "disturbing" and warned parents against allowing youngsters to take part in this sort of sport while they were developing.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said sports such as boxing and cage-fighting were "sometimes defended on the grounds that children learn to work through their aggression with discipline and control".

But it said many other sports, such as athletics, swimming, judo and football, "require discipline but do not pose the same threat of brain injury".

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the event felt "very barbaric"

Sharefight, the company commissioned to film the event, said the video had been on the internet for two weeks without complaint.

It was taken down on Wednesday "out of respect" for parents and others who had shown concern, a spokesman said.

He said the event had taken place in a "safe environment" and under strict conditions.

"What took place was safer than what happens in judo clubs and rugby training grounds up and down the country," he said.

"People are reacting to the negative stereotype around cage-fighting and the setting within a cage, but a cage makes it safer for the participant because it stops them falling from the ring.

"The event involving the children was submission wrestling. Contact between the participants was restricted at all times.

"I would liken it to a game of chess, it's about outsmarting your opponent rather than overcoming them."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 514.

    512. slithy-toves

    Millions of kids across the globe practice and enjoy martial arts and combat sports - who are you to dictate what they do and enjoy? MMA happens in a cage, much like Rugby happens on a field. This was a demo before rea (adult) MMA fights - you have never competed at an event clearly

  • rate this

    Comment number 513.


    You want us to think you an expert on judo? clearly not if you show such ignorance of jiu jitsu and hybrid martial arts as sports. the discipline and respect learned from "modern" martial arts and combat sports is comparable to "traditional" and the work ethic even higher.
    Judo is two people fighting to win - this is no different, climb down from your high horse and you might see

  • rate this

    Comment number 512.

    I suspect there are a fair number of MMA (there's that pesky acronym again) enthusiasts on here desperately trying to big-up what is, in effect, a pretty unpleasant incident.

    If two adults want to indulge in this so-called 'martial art', no problem. But young children should not be grappling in a labour club: they should be riding bikes, reading the beano and enjoying their innocence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 511.

    Tiger stripe... your spot on. How did you know that there was a gangster element in it and a bit Brothelesque. That's at a boxing venue isn't it? Is there a difference.... Give way to the queue of amateur wrestling types replying to this with " Ill have you know blah blah the difference is blah blah blah. Im tired of this $%^& . Ah ignorant bliss , love it

  • rate this

    Comment number 510.

    Kids should learn that to kick and punch someone in the face is easy but to repair the damage takes

    four A grade passes and one B at higher level
    five years of study at university,
    years of specialisation followed by
    probation and
    years of experience.

    Maybe its a "sport", maybe nobody was seriously injured but I fail to understand the obsession some men have with battering each others faces.

  • rate this

    Comment number 509.

    499. Moderator Friendly Unoffensive Display Name

    The fact you have had to put that as your account name speaks volumes about you. My children enjoy many sports and activities that other children do without feeling the need resort to being a Neanderthal and pummel someone else to give them a feeling of self-worth and importance. Prejudice is born from ignorance my statement is born from fact.

  • rate this

    Comment number 508.

    I get the feeling that this is a class issue. MMA is a sport associated with the working classes. My son plays rugby and at 8 is playing full contact and this is deemed normal even though boys take serious knocks in the course of a game. From the report I saw it was stated that the boys only wrestled and couldn't hit. Parents should be careful of judging each others choices. Sport is sport.

  • rate this

    Comment number 507.

    504 louise
    This macho culture is outdated, given the fact that men are able to show their feelings without all this bravado stuff.
    No different than young females getting boob jobs to “Boost their conference”. We all have our bravados

  • rate this

    Comment number 506.

    It doesn't sit easily with me - I don't really understand why adults would want to watch children engaged in this activity. Cage-fighting for adults is fine, it is just the continuation of the pankration event at the ancient Olympics, but I think just because the ancient Greeks allowed children to compete in this, doesn't mean we should.

  • rate this

    Comment number 505.

    @497. Why bring class and north/south into this, I'm from the so called south and I've done MMA and if you look back at the comments I've defended this. This has nothing to do with who's better or worse this is people basing there opinion on sensationalist journalism, they have little or no knowledge of the sport and have barely even read the article's.

  • rate this

    Comment number 504.

    Manflewover thecuckoo, I couldn't agree with you more. This macho culture is outdated, given the fact that men are able to show their feelings without all this bravado stuff. Some regretfully cannot do this. Far too ingrained in their psyche as you say. I know that in my personal experience of bring up four children, 3 of whom are boys, they live full lives without this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 503.

    Not a single person would complain about a child playing football, yet the potential for injury is just as bad. let them be, it will make a child grow up ready to deal with the harsh realities of life. A person who has grown up in the ring will be less intimidated by the bullies of this world, you know the type, are big only in the presence of small people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 502.

    Fighting is barbaric. Period.

  • rate this

    Comment number 501.

    Hmmm, using the acronym MMA makes it all sound so much more respectable and professional. Alas, it's just a combatative bastardisation of noble martial arts.

    And making comparisons with rubgy and judo is just mendacious bilge. In Judo the emphasis is on self-defence (which is why so many shy kids take it up). This, on the other hand, is about two young children fighting in a bar.


  • rate this

    Comment number 500.

    The continued ignorance when it comes to MMA never ceases to astound me. Firstly a MMA 'cage' is in a lot of ways safer than a traditional boxing ring. You can't fall out of it for a start. This was a grappling match, put on as an exhibition either before or between a match between adults. Will the people calling for it to be banned say the same about rugby? Horse riding? Gymnastics? Get a clue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 499.

    493. Havelock Vetinari
    Do get off your high horse. You are the one who is academically deficient. Many people from varying walks of life enjoy traditional martial arts and modern combat sports for different reasons. Your ridiculous prejudice is offensive. But hey, dont let ignorance prevent you from your elitist comments. Kids play many sports who are you to judge quality of inspiration?

  • rate this

    Comment number 498.

    I don't think the sport is wrong for the children,what i strongly object too is the audience which i find wrong,,mostly baying and cheering adults, they looked like people at a cockfight.

  • rate this

    Comment number 497.

    I wonder if this topic would have gained so much criticism by the Southern Liberals if it was a ethnic minority sport?
    I very much doubt it.
    The fact is, the upper and middle class English, have always enjoyed sticking the boot in the working class people.
    It makes them feel so much superior.

  • Comment number 496.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 495.

    I agree that the cage can look like a barbaric setting for a combat sport to take place but they are also safer than rings. In a ring combatants can easily end up falling out of it, where as the cage is safer and stops this sort of thing happening. The problem is calling MIXED MARTIAL ARTS cage fighting gives off a bad vibe, its so much more than two idiots slugging at each other for 15 minute.


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