Illegal fight clubs lure office workers
Aleksey is a fight club member. A lawyer by day, he limps back to his desk the morning after a fight.
Although he prefers to hide his face, he believes fighting a willing opponent is not a crime.
“We do have rules, but usually fights involve full contact with no restrictions. I've seen broken noses, jaws and ribs, damaged hands and wrists. Every punch means pain, but I think it's natural for a man to fight to prove his worth,” says Aleksey.
Meanwhile, professional wrestler Vladimir Turchinsky says these 'white-collar' boxers are living in a fantasy world, inspired by popular culture.
“For businessmen and office workers it must be a kind of parallel universe, where they can experience the flow of adrenaline they lack in their real lives. I think, these are movies like 'Fight Club' that have contributed to the emergence of underground clubs here in Russia,” he believes.
In the Hollywood film 'Fight Club', based on the 1996 novel of the same name by Chuck Palahniuk, Brad Pitt's character appears to promote violence as a means to express power and masculinity.
However, there are safer ways to get a kick and avoid sporting a black eye in the boardroom. The Arbat Fight Club in Moscow holds licensed matches, overseen by the World Bars Kickboxing Federation. It insists on medical checks and head scans, and is trying to clean up the image of kickboxing.
“All our fights are regulated and restricted, whereas at these underground clubs with no referee there's a danger of uncontrolled violence. What happens if one fighter is knocked unconscious and dies? Who will be responsible?” wonders Vitaly Andrianov from the Arbat Professional Fight Club.
For Aleksey, though, it's the illegal nature of his club that gives him the buzz.
“Well, at these professional clubs it's all goal orientated. You have to get permission, there's a lot of red tape. And you have to have a winner and a loser, but at our club there's no victory as such. Everyone who fights wins,” says Alexey.
However, in Moscow's 'no holds barred' warehouses and basements, amateurs will continue to punch and kick each other until one is lying battered and bloodied on the ground.