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 534.

    Continuation to my comment.
    The brazilians are brought up doing it wether they like it or not if they come from a family that compete. I mean look at the gracies? Do you think you could name a whole family of 20 plus competitors that are better at what they do than them? No and I wonder why? It's because they liked doing what they were brought up to do and that is compete in BJJ and MMA bouts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 533.

    For all the people that find this sport inhumane and wrong.
    If these kids want to take part in MMA or even just grappling matches then let them. I am 18 at the moment and love the sport and if I could go back and start training in some disiplines when I was that age I would love to. Look at the kids in brazil who dont wantto do it but are brought up to compete.

  • rate this

    Comment number 532.

    I'm not entirely sure people know what barbarism is, or indeed the definition of brutal - those kids had to learn some difficult concepts of control, movement and weight distribution - not exactly barbaric, plus not really brutal considering there was no striking, no weapons and a licensed referee. I have seen injuries in junior martial arts comps as bad in junior rugby matches - no studs in MA

  • rate this

    Comment number 531.

    As for the risk of 'head injury' - I waloped my noggin dozens of times play-fighting with my father as a kid, fell out of many a tree and fell off my bicycle many a time. All of this was an essential part of 'growing up' - i hope we would all agree on this - yet never did i have the benfit of falling on a padded floor lihe the kids in this video. Lets keep things honest and in perspective please.

  • rate this

    Comment number 530.

    God damn it BBC - i wrote some good posts earlier and the Editor picks one out of context from a line of comments? Oh well, i best toe the line and accept that these people are wrong and sick, after all that's what we are supposed to think from the excerpts, right? Don't look too closely or think, you might get ideas

  • rate this

    Comment number 529.

    I am a serving police officer as well as an MMA fan who has competed in this kind of competition.

    Whilst I dont necessarily agree with kids being made a spectical of in this manner I do think that getting kids involves in MMA can only be a good thing. It teaches them fitness, discipline and self respect and is no more dangerous than wrestling, Judo, boxing or Tae Kwon Do - all olympic sports.

  • rate this

    Comment number 528.

    Ron: RE Women having B jobs... that's not bravado, that's a lifetime of feeling worthless, body image hang ups and and being judged by men as not being good enough. You need to have a straight talk with a woman

  • rate this

    Comment number 527.

    hold your horses folks, first, that's not mixed martial arts, the kids are not exchanging blows, it's just grappling, there are thousand of sports that are more dangerous than that, and the floor is padded so they arent going to injure themselves by hitting it.

    It's very sad to see so many people misguided by the words "cage fighting" when in reality it's just a grappling demonstration.

  • rate this

    Comment number 526.

    This Fight is being portrayed in the Italian media as a barbaric example of child exploitation and rightly so . Not easy to defend in the bars that England is a tolerant child friendly place

  • rate this

    Comment number 525.

    Perhaps this article is about your perception, your comments, and not about 2 boys having a great time.
    So many key words - drink, adult, cage, fighting, then of course the comments - some even mentioning that paedaphiles might enjoy the sight.
    As i said, this is not about 2 boys having the time of their lives.

  • rate this

    Comment number 524.


    My expertise in whatever is an irrelevance, much as yours is. The issue is whether two young children under the age of ten should be competing in licensed premises for the enjoyment of adults. We're not talking about 14 year old boys in their local ABA gym here, we're referring to individuals closer to infancy than adulthood.

    It's wrong and you are defending the indefensible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 523.

    There was no danger regarding the 'grappling match, but could just as well been held in a safe environment. No alcohol, Only parents and family of competing kids should be allowed, and safety gear. look at how the Americans have wrestling matches, learn from that. It was like going to an illegal 'dog-fight'. I'm appalled! I fight in America where its a sport and aways professional.

  • rate this

    Comment number 522.

    For the ignorant present - this isn't only the North - this is worldwide, it isn't even new; kids have participated in combat sports for decades, you can see plenty of it online if you wish. And if you attended with your kids you would see other adults watching and enjoying. If youve never experienced a martial art then that's a shame but that also means you shouldnt comment on what you dont know

  • rate this

    Comment number 521.

    I can see nothing wrong with this, it's grappling. Grappling means learning the technique of using your opponents body weight against them, that is it. There is no danger to the head, the floor is heavily padded and if there were any risk involved then I'm sure it would be accounted for. I am sure the council are not taking bets on the match, it is a psychical activity where kids can have fun

  • rate this

    Comment number 520.

    The BBC tonight is showing eastenders with ben trying to box to impress phil. go figure

  • rate this

    Comment number 519.

    It's a disgrace! I am 40 years old, became the British Heavy Weight Champion in 2008 for one of the biggest MMA events at the time in London. It's a sad day for a growing sport in this country! i agree that kids should be able to learn karate, judo, boxing, wrestling and even MMA. but to parade a half naked woman between rounds, serve drinks to already drunken men, who's kids aren't competing...

  • rate this

    Comment number 518.

    I have just realized , most of these comments are totally "oneupmanship"
    im outa here!

  • rate this

    Comment number 517.

    Also, if you can't see past the shallow "two people fighting" element then i do pity your shallow world because if you only look at the surface then your world must be so bland.
    This was not a pit fight organised with kids as combatants - these were kids showcasing at an MMA event, yes people paid for that event. Maybe if village halls would hold the events people would spit less bile?

  • rate this

    Comment number 516.

    The problem is not cage fighting children, but it is a symptom of this area of Preston. Ribbleton is a white formerly working class area, it is the underclass and is attracted by the EDL. Children here suffer from living in broken homes, drugs, bad language and violence. They see foreign policy on TV and think that fighting solves all problems. The police should intervene now b4 things get worse.

  • rate this

    Comment number 515.

    509. Havelock Vetinari

    quite - and many kids from various walks of life enjoy martial arts and combat sports. I hold two degrees in engineering and am very proficient at martial arts, am i considered a Neanderthal? no. do i suffer from lack of worth? no - but people like you suffer from deep prejudices that blind you and i despair for those kids you mentioned whom you poison with your attitudes


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