A club in England has drawn outrage after profiting from an event in which children as young as eight fought in cages, but the organizers will face no legal action, police said Thursday.
British police launched an investigation after video emerged of the fight at Greenlands Labour Club in Preston, northwest England, on Sept. 10.
The government's sports minister, Jeremy Hunt, called the images "very barbaric," and London-based National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children expressed outrage.
"We would strongly discourage parents from letting their children take part in this kind of fighting," Chris Cloke, head of child protection awareness at the children's group, told AFP. "The organizers of these activities should think very carefully before allowing children to be involved when they are egged on to inflict violence."
Video posted online shows the boys, ages 8 and 9, grappling and wrestling, watched by an audience of about 250 people. A scantily clad female paraded on stage between rounds, The Telegraph reported. The fight, presented to a sold-out, tickets-only audience, lasted about ten minutes, said the U.K. newspaper.
A clip of the video (which can be seen on the Telegraph's website here) shows crowds outside a large, caged ring cheering as the boys wrap each other in head locks, wearing no protective gear.
One of the boys looks as if he is crying at one point in the video, reported The Telegraph.
Event organizer Steven Nightingale, 28, a professional cage fighter, told the newspaper the sport is safe.
"The kids are not getting hit or anything at all when they are under age. We do not let them strike - punch and kick - until the age of 14 or 15," he said. "The kid [crying] has never been beaten before; he is the one who wins the gold medals."
Father says his son 'loves the sport'
Nick Hartley, the father of one of the boys in the video, told the BBC his son was never in harm's way.
"He loves the sport. It's not one bit dangerous, it's a controlled sport," he said. "He likes to do it, he's never forced to do it, he wants to do it, so leave him to do it."
He also denied the kids were cage fighting.
"The children weren't doing cage fighting, they were doing what they call grappling. The cage fighting only comes when they're older," he said in a separate interview with Sky News.
Cage fighting is part of Mixed Martial Arts, or MMA, a contact sport where competitors can punch and kick each other through martial arts, wrestling, or boxing moves. Most everything goes, but eye-gouging, groin attacks, and "clawing, pinching or twisting the flesh" are among disqualifiers, according to the Ultimate Fighting Championship's website.
A spokesman for Lancashire police told local media it had looked into whether a crime had been committed, but that it wouldn't take any further action. The club had a license to hold events, he said.
Michelle Anderson, owner of Greenlands Labour Club, told The Telgraph, “There was nothing wrong with it. The kids were there to fight, they have fought before. The parents were there. Would people rather these kids were out on the streets with guns and knives?"
The Associated Press contributed to this report.