Westbrook police say they have uncovered the existence of at least one “fight club,” which has been using the social networking site, Facebook, to organize and promote mixed martial arts style fights in the city.
Authorities said they are investigating the possibility that more than one fight club is operating in Westbrook.
Two 18-year-old men have been charged with unlawful prize fighting as the result of their involvement in an organized street fight that took place on the night of Nov. 8.
Lt. Mike Nugent said officers who raided the fight on Cumberland Street encountered a large group of spectators whose cars formed a circle around the combatants. Their car headlights were turned on to illuminate the fight.
“We wanted to get the word out that we are not going to tolerate this,” Nugent said. “If people want to get involved in mixed martial arts fighting, then there are clubs where they can do that.”
Charged with unlawful prize fighting, a class E misdemeanor, were Christopher Randall of South Portland and Christian Adams of Portland. According to Maine law, a person who engages in, encourages, or does any act to further a premeditated fight is guilty of unlawful prize fighting.
Nugent said there is no betting on the fights, adding that “they do it for status.” At least one spectator video taped the fighting, he said.
The fight’s organizers, Westbrook MMA (Mixed Martial Arts), posted this message on their Facebook wall: “We started this MMA in Westbrook and put it on the radar, now we got other people setting up fights in Westbrook, and I am proud of that because we put this on the map in the dirty brook. I’ll keep you posted on MMA fights that are going on in this area.”
The Facebook page has attracted 249 followers and features images of fighters.
It includes comments from followers such as, ” this is so dope” and “where’s the next card.”
On Tuesday night police interrupted another fight on an athletic field off Stevens Avenue. Two 16-year-olds were charged with disorderly conduct.
Nugent said the boys arranged that fight on Facebook, though it doesn’t appear they were part of a fight club.
“Our problem is that one of these kids is going to get seriously hurt. They are not taking any type of safety precautions,” he said.
Mixed martial arts fighting is shown on television. The United States-based Ultimate Fighting Championship is shown on pay-per-view television in the United States and several other countries.
Fighters use kicks, boxing skills and wrestling moves to overpower their opponents.
Hollywood drew attention to street fighting in “Fight Club,” a 1999 film featuring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton. “These kids are definitely getting ideas from the media. You can even go back as far as the movie Fight Club,” said Dan Panici, a professor of communications and media studies at the University of Southern Maine. Beau DeCourcy, an instructor at The Academy, a mixed martial arts club on Warren Avenue in Portland, said he and his colleagues frown on the type of fighting Westbrook police are investigating.
“Street fighting has been around forever,” he said. “And they’re horrible. It’s that simple.”
DeCourcy blames the media in part for the type of fighting that Westbrook is seeing. “These kids probably saw fighting on TV and wanted to try it,” he said.
Nugent, the Westbrook police lieutenant, said his department is seeking subpoenas for all of the participant’s Facebook accounts and may seek an injunction preventing participants from communicating information about upcoming fights.
Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: