The spectators are swarming the ropes, raring to flinch and holler. This time the match is in the backyard of a century-old Craftsmen home in historical West Adams, Los Angeles.

Flight Like A Girl … Chickfights

The location, which always changes, is disclosed only the day before, and attendance is by invitation only. Ringside, turntablist Marc X, touted as “L.A.’s #1 remix deejay,” cuts and blends a funky hip-hop brew, providing the audience and the video shoot with a live musical score. There’s also a surgical-glove-wearing referee onstage to break up clinches, and a real nurse in a white latex outfit on standby.

As we wait for the crew to finish setting up, some in the racially mixed crowd are placing bets on the first two contenders. Others are milling around under the California sun, smoking and swigging 40s out of brown paper bags, nibbling on snacks courtesy of craft services. Then, suddenly, “Tray Ler,” the mullet-wig-wearing co-host, belches into a mike: “Are you ready for some girl-on-girl action? Are you ready for an orgy of violence?”

Have I mentioned that it’s only 10:30 on a Saturday morning?

Lips are curled. Eyes are bulging. These female fighters are viciously going at it. They’re full on, throwing jabs and getting punched. These women wanna kick some serious ass without getting arrested; in order to do so they’re willing to bleed on camera… for 50 bucks.

This is Extreme Chickfights — an underground “Fightclub4girls” (as a press release puts it) that also doubles as a reality project gone wild. “It started out as a tongue-in-cheek kind of thing and has turned into an animal of its own,” marvels creator Marie, who asked Penthouse not to disclose her last name. “The first time we filmed, we were in a backyard in the boondocks with no ring — only friends and family were watching — and now we’ve got a mailing list.”

As anyone who remembers the 1999 Brad Pitt movie knows, the first rule of Fight Club is, you don’t talk about Fight Club. The second rule is, you do not talk about Fight Club. This, however, does not apply to Extreme Chickfights. While the events were initially secret, with the fan base growing only by word of mouth, Marie recently hired a publicist. (For the record, I got there beforehand.) As a result, many media outlets have expressed interest, so whether the use of the adjective underground is accurate is debatable. For that matter, use of the term fight club is also less than 100 percent accurate. But you still need to know someone to get in. And the fighting is definitely real.

Marie, a 29-year-old African-American freelance producer whose area of interest usually lies in music documentaries, came up with the idea for Chickfights back in March 2003 after watching Bumfights, a fast-selling video of homeless dudes fighting and performing stunts. “We were like, ‘Guys have made money from this thing? We could do something better. How about with girls?’” So Marie formed Demolition Pictures and hooked up with Hakimah, a self-described “renegade femme producer with a penchant for violence and retribution.” Hakimah, who grew up in the Harlem projects, assured Marie that she could get her a backer. “I can’t say how much he’s invested — not a lot, but we don’t need a lot; it’s underground, baby,” says Hakimah. “Low budget and high drama are the key words here.”

With 12 fights currently under their belts, the duo has released Extreme Chickfights on video and DVD for $19.95 via the Internet at Demolition Pictures is already working on Extreme Chickfights 2, and hopes to move to different cities, including Detroit, Atlanta, Chicago, and Las Vegas.

Initially, Marie didn’t believe any women would respond to her ads; now she has to turn down potential combatants. “Guys are even contacting me and volunteering their girlfriends,” she says. And it’s not like these chicks can be pigeonholed, either. Yes, many of them are rough around the edges, yet competitors come from a variety of backgrounds and with a wide range of physical ability. They have included a 44-year-old comedian who lugged her 12-year-old son to the bout and dressed herself in a banana suit (best costume yields an extra 75 bucks); a 21-year-old UCLA student from Sherman Oaks; a Ukrainian who decided she wanted to try something new at age 49 ( they get quite a few ladies from Ukraine — evidently, says Marie, ass-kicking is big over there); an intimidating-looking 27-year-old black lesbian with a shaved head named Amazon, who has fought three women at once; a former oil wrestler turned novelist; and a worn-out bar girl who had been jailed several times for attacking cops on the street.

The one requirement is that participants take the sport seriously and fight to win. Like the company’s ad says, “No fake fighterz, please.”

“That’s why sometimes we avoid recruiting the cutsie girls,” says Marie. “Because they get into the ring and then realize that they’re too frightened.” During a fight in a vacant second-story retail space on L.A.’s Melrose Avenue, a stripper-looking gal named Ms. Lightning called it quits within eight seconds. Among other things, she was worried that her opponent, also a first-time boxer, would rupture her silicone breasts. Later, in an interview, Lightning said it was the crunching sound in her neck that made her realize that Extreme Chickfights is for real.

I admit that the first time I spotted the set, the gloves, the headgear, and the mouthpieces, I rolled my eyes with anticipated disappointment. According to the online ad I’d stumbled upon, I could expect to find myself at a bare-knuckled brawl, not a la-la-land version of one. When I asked Marie whether any of the fights would be sans gloves, she said that she was easing off on that because she’d heard that some woman had recently gotten killed in a Florida ring (more on that later). “It was the first time I heard of a venue other than ours,” she says. “I knew of ‘sexy fighting’ and ‘foxy boxing,’ where the girls are nude, but that’s acting.”

Marie may have come up with the concept on her own, but chick fights are extremely popular. Google “catfighing,” for instance, and you’ll get about 180,000 results, including Catfighting Wives, Big Woman Catfights, Slutty Wrestlers, and Nude Women Catfighting.

“The chick-fight market is huge and growing,” says Rick Mahr, president and CEO of Extreme Entertainment Group. XEG, based in the San Fernando Valley, has produced such videos as Backyard Wrestling, Backyard Babes, Ghetto Brawls, World’s Wildest Street Flights, and Brawlin Broads. “A best-seller like Brawling Broads, for instance, can easily sell hundreds of thousands of units, and generate millions,” says Mahr.

The difference is, many of these girl-on-girl video battles are X-rated and much trashier. Take, for instance, Brawlin Broads, featuring Martin and Mitchell Boone. The Boone brothers sit on a couch in a wood-paneled basement chugging beer and commentating as they watch “little skinny hellcats with crazy eyes and no futures” in various stages of undress bitch-slapping one another.

“It’s sexy to see two women getting down and dirty, cause you don’t know what’s gonna happen — breasts or blood.”

The fatality in Florida that Marie had referred to was in a “Toughman” amateur-boxing contest. The event, which can best be described as something between a bar brawl and a boxing match, tours cross-country; anyone is allowed to slug it out. In June 2003, a 30-year-old mother of two in Sarasota climbed into the ring and never climbed out. She died of brain damage.

“It made me rethink our fights,” Marie says. “It’s not about gore or negativity. It’s about sweat, sexiness, stamina, and some serious shit-talking. I might offer an incentive for girls who don’t wear the gear, but then you run into a situation where the girls aren’t truthful about their ability — and that’s scary. Or they lie about their medical condition.”

An example of this, adds Marie, is when a deejay brought a midget to one of the fights. “She had to be about 45 — she wasn’t the best-looking midget — but the girl really wanted to fight. She had a few teeth missing. She told the medic that she has seizures, so we turned her down. We try to be selective and familiarize ourselves with the girls before we let them go all out.”

Nonetheless, at the following fight (the one I attended in West Adams), two girls (one a first-timer) insisted they wanted to street fight — they’d keep the headgear but they wanted to lose the gloves. Marie acquiesced. (By the 12th bout, girls were regularly fighting bare-knuckled; three of them ended up going to the hospital for stitches.)

In the right corner we had Brianna, a.k.a “the Pit,” an 18-year-old African-American makeup artist and longtime street scrapper. In the left corner we had Silvie, a 26-year-old former taxi driver from the Czech Republic. Both fighters were five foot six and weighed in at 150. At the sound of the bell, the chicks pounced on each other.

As the girls started duking it out, the deejay scratched the lyrics “We kick some ass in the streets” over and over again. (It was catchy. To my shame, I was actually shakin’ my booty while simultaneously cringing.) The Pit chewed Silvie up, constantly knocking her down in a ring that had been used in a Korn video and had a skull and crossbones and the words THE RING OF DEATH etched on its floor. Some guy shouted, “This ain’t Czechoslovakia, it’s Crenshaw, bitch.”

By the fourth round, Silvie had a bleeding lip, a bite mark on her chest, and she was covered in scratches. She’d also flashed the audience her left breast. (This female fight club has progressively become more risqué, featuring boxers in bikini tops, in the hope that a breast or two will be exposed.) It was a technical knockout, and the Pit brought home the bacon: $200 minus $25 for playing dirty. It had been an ugly, ugly fight. And as a woman who has a lasting injury from being hit by an SUV while crossing the street, I didn’t quite understand what motivated a chick to want to cause harm to her body.

“I cannot speak for the others, but I fought for only one reason, and that was money,” says Silvie. “The fight was a promise of relatively easy and fast money, so I signed up for it. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough motivation for me, so I wasn’t able to perform as well as I wished. My girlfriend doesn’t enjoy fights — especially if I’m involved. So I won’t be coming back.” (A couple months later, Silvie still had scratch marks.)

Elle Nucci, a.k.a. the Moroccan Princess, maintains that, unlike in everyday life, in this arena a woman doesn’t have to have any restraints on her body or her emotions. The 29-year-old bartender, who collects thimbles and whose idol is female pro boxer Lucia Rijker, has been fighting for the past four years and is a regular at Extreme Chickfights. “Most women are sexy in all forms, and when we are fighting we exert ourselves and are aggressive. This shows passion and commitment,” Nucci says. This fierce female is so committed that she recently got a tattoo at the base of her spine of a Moroccan princess wearing gloves.

Amazon, who has become the poster chick for Extreme Chickfights, says that another reason women partake in brawls is because they’re tired of the limits that society places on them. “We’re constantly watching men do this and men do that, and for centuries men have tried to use their physical power. And fight club serves as an outlet because women are also strong and athletic.”

But, I wonder, could it also be that some women enjoy fighting because on a deep-rooted level it’s a means of destroying their sexual rivals? Marie seems to think so. “I think we all have this innate jealousy — constant esteem problems, intense competition for mating — and all of this bundled together creates a woman who can kick ass and take names,” she says. “I’ve had women say to me — with a smile — ‘Can I scratch her eyes out?’ I’m like, ‘Okay, why would you want to do that?’”

There’s definitely some primal brutality, what deejay Marc X refers to as “sexy rage,” which is unleashed when a member of the gentler sex is hit on the side of the head. Judging by the reaction of the male members of the audience, watching women get aggressive is sexually stimulating. “Why are men so obsessed with catfights?” Elaine once asked Jerry on Seinfeld. “Because men think if women are grabbing and clawing at each other, there’s a chance they might somehow kiss,” Jerry answered.

“It’s sexy to see two women getting down and dirty,” says Marc X, “cause you don’t know what’s gonna happen — breasts or blood. Not to mention the thrill of seeing a woman stand her ground and hold her own.”

Society loves two things, asserts chickfight medic Greg Vega: sex and violence. “Extreme Chickfights merges the two into a single package. Plain and simple.”

As you can see, this article first appeared in 2004, and a lot of things have changed in world over those 20 years. We’re not 100% sure that the term Chickfights even falls into the realm of politically correct terminology these days. Although what does, really? … We do know that Women’s UFC still roars, and female athletes still bemoan the overt sexualization of things as simple as their uniforms. … Longest journey. First step. All that. … Granted, the line between sexual appeal and physical prowess will always be there, but the dichotomy between the sexes does get absurd.

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