By Lee Moran
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Brutal: The boys are not wearing padding or head gear as they grapple and slam each other into the canvas
The brutality of cage fighting has come under fire - as it was revealed children as young as eight are participating in the vicious sport.
Disturbing footage that has emerged of a fight-night, youngsters who are not wearing head gear or padding are seen wrestling and slamming each other onto the canvas.
At one point one of the fighters appears to be crying, and qualified medical staff are rushed in to the ring to work out if they are fit enough to carry on.
Upsetting: The young boy is seen here crying in the middle of a fight, and is then attended by medical experts who check if he can carry on with the bout
Spectators are heard baying for the boys, as scantily clad women parade the fighting ground between rounds.
The images were filmed at a sold-out ticket-only event at the Greenlands Labour Club in Preston, Lancashire.
Organisers have defended staging the event and say the sport is 'safe', but medical experts have branded it as 'disturbing'.
And the Vicar of Preston, Timothy Lipscomb, said: 'It's not the way we want children to be brought up.
'Up to a certain age they need protection, they do not need to see the senior side of life. It should not be a public spectacle to see them bashing the living daylight out of each other.
'Do you not think it encourages bullying and trying to use force to get your own way?'
Prepared: Just like in an adult event, the fighters come out with their respective entourages
Seconds out: The boys are brought together in the middle of the cage fighting ring, prepared to do battle
Grappling: The pair begin their fight slowly, feeling out the air in front of them
Fight: Before long, they have hit the canvas and take turns in pinning each other down
A British Medical Association spokesman added: 'This example of cage fighting among young children is particularly disturbing, especially as they are not even wearing head guards.
'Boxing and cage fighting are sometimes defended on the grounds that children learn to work through their aggression with discipline and control.
'We believe there are many other sports, such as athletics, swimming, judo and football, which require discipline but do not pose the same threat of brain injury.'
And Paul Jackson, manager of the kick boxing focused Warriors Gym in nearby Plungington, questioned the lack of protective gear.
He said: 'Why were the parents allowing them to do that? I wouldn't really agree with anything like it.
'It's like a circus performance but if it's consenting adults, that's different. It depends on what the rules were as well.
'If they were joint-locking then I'd be questioning that because the bones aren't developed fully yet.'
There is no suggestion that any of the bouts at the Reps Retribution night, which included semi-professional fights, breached any rules or licence laws.
Other cage fighting events have taken place at venues around the city featuring adults.
Event organiser Steven Nightingale, 28, a professional cage fighter who runs Preston's Reps MMA gym, said the sport was safe and growing in popularity.
He said: 'Competitions start from the age of five, it is definitely a big up-and-coming sport. It is all based around martial arts.
Time out: Scantily clad ring girls parade on the canvas in between rounds
Baying: Spectators scream at the two boys as they fight each other
Victory: The fight ends to cheers from the adoring crowd
'The kids are not getting hit or anything at all when they are under age. We do not let them strike - punch and kick - until the age of 14 or 15.'
Asked about the crying child during one bout, he said: 'The kid has never been beaten before, he is the one who wins the gold medals.
'When they get beaten, they are going to get emotional, also the referee and corner man said you do not have to carry on.
'He (the youngster crying) had come from the far side of Manchester, he came with his coach, and it is something he had trained for.'
Mr Nightingale denied a packed social club was the wrong environment for the bout, claiming it would help their progress.
Michelle Anderson, owner of Greenlands Labour Club,added: 'There was nothing wrong with it.
'The kids were there to fight, they have fought before. The parents were there.
Would people rather these kids were out on the streets with guns and knives?'
The sport, also known as Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), encompasses a range of martial arts which are used during bouts which take place in cages.
It has become popular partly due to reality star Alex Reid, the sport's most high-profile figure in the UK.
In cage fighting events, contestants are allowed to punch, kick, wrestle, knee and elbow each other into submission.
Some moves are banned including gouging, elbows in the spine and putting fingers in the opponents mouth and pulling.