Team Fighting Championship (TFC) is a new, rather brutal sport that originated in Latvia and is gaining popularity in other European countries as well. Two four or five-member teams face each other in a ring, beating the living daylights out of each other until all the members of a team are down.
The fights are held in a 40×40 ring set up in an empty 30,000-sq.ft. warehouse, in an undisclosed location in Latvia, with no audience present. Five referees stationed inside the ring supervise the fight, but the rules are so relaxed that the refs can’t really stop fighters from inflicting serious damage. Players use moves from various fighting styles, they get kicked when they’re down, and at times two or more men gang up against one opponent. The fights are so vicious that they only last a few minutes, with most participants leaving the ring bleeding or unconscious.
A TFC match might seem like total carnage to the uninitiated, almost like a street brawl, but apparently there is some method to the madness. According to the few existing rules, each team cannot collectively exceed 550 kg. Teams are permitted to bring up to ten men – a maximum of five in the ring and five substitutes who also serve as the audience. Certain moves like head-butts, kicking in the groin, biting, spitting, and punching the Adam’s apple are banned. But the injuries can still get pretty bad. There is no time limit, so the team with the last standing member wins.
The barbaric nature of the sport has earned it a ban in the US, but a team from America is currently participating in a tournament in Latvia, along with teams from Poland, Brazil, and Russia. And according to TFC USA head coach Jody Poff, the sport isn’t as dangerous as it seems. “It can get ugly fast once guys start dropping,” he said, speaking to Vice. “But there are five referees in there with you, and they are watching everything. So in a way, by the time it gets mismatched, it’s pretty safe. In a normal fight, there’s only one ref.”
“The fights happen and they are over quickly,” added Sean Barnett, one of the best fighters on the US team. “It’s not a street fight. There is strategy. When we are in there, we each have a specific job to do. We all know what has to be done. If you don’t do it, you let your team down.” But he admitted that once the first guy goes down, everything changes fast. The fighter who’s finished his opponent is now free to look around and help out other members of his team, making it easier to defeat the other opponents.
According to Poff, TFC is slowly picking up steam with more and more people becoming interested in it. “First, everybody did boxing, then kickboxing got popular, then MMA became the next thing,” he said. “As a sport, we’re going through the same growing pains as MMA and the UFC went through. Yeah, we’re a little crazy, but we’re pro athletes and we want to explore what’s next. The next level.”
But according to Vice writer Dante Zúñiga-West, the US might not really be ready for a sport as extreme as TFC. “In an era where football is under fire for being potentially dangerous and the state of New York has yet to lift its ban on MMA, the arrival of TFC is probably not something the American public is going to welcome with open arms,” he writes. But he adds that whether America is willing to accept the sport or not, it will continue to grow.
“Ultimately, TFC will keep going as long as there are fighters ready to jump in the ring and duke it out until there’s only one man left standing,” Dante added. “Judging from the history of humans and fighting, that isn’t going to change anytime soon.”
After watching them fight, I’d hate to be in the ring with any of the guys from the Polish LPH team, not to mention five of them… Oh, and this was one of the tamer fights, for more violence and gore, check out the project’s YouTube channel.