A fight club isn’t the first place that comes to mind when thinking of camaraderie. But Ben Leece and Christian Granter made their dream of friendly competitive combat a reality, starting Benny’s Fight Club, a mixed martial arts club.
“It started as a joke,” said Leece. “[My friends and I] would wrestle each other in my yard, where we’d always argue over who had won and out of that came this idea of the fight club.”
He would post satire versions of Ultimate Fighting Championship face-offs on his Instagram account, but the idea of turning the club into a full-fledged combat organization didn’t come until fall in their senior year of high school. Granter told Leece they could make their club their high school senior business project and turn it into something more than a pro league farce with merchandise.
“There wouldn’t be [a] fight club without [Granter], it’d still be a joke,” Leece said. “He’s the logistical one.”
A main point of focus for the two owners was both legality and safety. They have run four large-scale events in Fredericton without a single serious injury, anything more than a bump or bruise.
Some precautions include the removing of knees to the head, no elbow strikes, the signing of consent waivers with a witness present and the use of vaseline on fighters’ faces to avoid serious cuts. Leece and Granter credit the precautions for their low injury rates.
They have found volunteer practitioners of martial arts, with adept knowledge of the sport as referees. Currently, they have 12 members.
Granter asked a former RCMP officer about the legality of their club He said the former officer told him “a consensual fight, is a legal fight.”
The two wanted to differentiate their organization from street fighting and wanted Benny’s Fight Club to be viewed as a sport instead of a joke.
“I understand someone’s grandma doesn’t want to see her boy throw leather in the ring and I’m not trying to make a case for everyone to like it,” said Leece. “But I see it being the same as if a bunch of [people] got together and started playing tackle football.”
Leece said rules and respect make mixed martial arts a sport and said he’s been more disrespected in a pickup basketball game.
Although Benny’s Fight Club started as a joke amongst friends, the two do it for love of the sport. The club merchandise, such as hats and shirts, ranging from $20 to $50, was originally a staple of the project criteria but has since then been a way to pay for venues. Leece and Granter were forced to spend out of their own pocket to rent gyms at some points. The focus is to enjoy the sport, not to make a profit.
The club is also strictly against all actual confrontations and refuses to let themselves be part of resolving issues, meaning the fights are for pure fun and not a way to solve issues between people.
“We don’t entertain beef, we’ve had to kick out overly aggressive members for that very reason,” said Leece. “You get a bunch of young guys ready to fight each other and things will be said, but there’s a line. At the end of the day, when we’re all sweaty and tired, there’s a warm energy all around us, we’re brothers.”