Legendary Oakland Biker Gang Regularly Holds Fight Club-Style Events

The East Bay Rats, a legendary motorcycle club in Oakland offers an innovative solution to barroom brawls – Fight Parties. Since 1996, the club has organised Friday Fight Nights – putting potential troublemakers (and anyone else who volunteers) in a boxing ring at the clubhouse and giving them a chance to work the violence out of their system.

According to East Bay Rats founder Trevor Latham, everybody has a violent streak in them and Fight Nights give people a safe space to test the limit of their courage. “Why not?” he asked. “The worst that can happen is you get a bloody nose.”

Over the years, Friday Fight Nights have become insanely popular, with the courtyard around the ring jam packed with spectators. Everyone who wants to fight gets a chance – it’s usually guys vs. guys and women vs. women, but you don’t have to be a professional fighter to get into the ring.  Participants range from bartenders and photographers, to bodybuilders, college students, lab technicians or musicians. That’s what this tradition is all about – real fights between real people.


“In the beginning, these parties started off slow – just a few guys beating each other up for the fun of it,” Latham said in a documentary called East Bay Rat’s Fight Party. Back then, the fights used to be more on the gladiatorial side – nothing was against the rules. “Soon, word got out and people from all walks of life came to us, asking if they could fight.” So they set up a wooden ring for a few years, and eventually replaced it with a real one from a local gym.

“Everybody has a different reason for being here,” Latham explained. “It doesn’t matter if you fight one of the rats, or fight each other. The only thing that matters, is that you fight. Fight parties are all about ordinary people doing something extraordinary,” he added. “This is their chance to face a challenge that’s going to change their lives forever.”


For example, the East Bay Rat’s Fight Party film features Tamara, a waitress, who for years suffered from an autoimmune disease. She was bedridden for a year, but the fight party helped her reestablish a connection with her body. “By getting back in the ring, I’m definitely proving to myself that I’m getting over this debilitating disease,” she said.

“With my job, everyone is kind of straight laced and serious and you really have to focus on what you’re doing,” said Amariah, a lab technician and fight night fan. “But when we’re out here fighting at one of these parties, things get pretty crazy. And I don’t know if the people I work with could understand how intense that gets. I don’t think just because someone’s interested in science or music, they’re weak in any way. You can be a scientist and still be a badass.”


“There’s a few fighters here who have been training,” Latham said. “They’re taking off the gloves and they’re going to fight bare knuckle. This doesn’t happen often, but when it does, you need to see it. This is old school fighting at its best.” The ladies, he added, can be unpredictable as boxers. “They shake hands and then try to kill each other.”

The East Bay Rats Fight Parties have attracted a lot of media interest over the years. When Vice magazine co-founder Gavin McInnes came to know about them, he featured them on his TV series The Immersionist – a show about demystifying subcultures. There are also short clips of Rat brawls all over YouTube, showing all sorts of fights between women, big, scary guys, and even geeks.


“For most people, this is not normal behavior,” Latham explained. “For us, it’s just another night with the East Bay Rats.”

Photos: East Bay Rats/Facebook

Sources: Inside Bay Area, East Bay Express

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