• Andrew Starc

3 Things to Know About Streetbeefs

Some call it UFC for rednecks. But with almost half a billion views on YouTube, Streetbeefs is fast becoming an online sensation.

The underground promotion, which hosts backyard MMA and boxing bouts in the city of Harrisonburg, Virginia, has taken amateur fighting to – depending on who you ask – ridiculous new lows, or entertaining new heights.

At first glance, Streetbeefs may seem the lowest common denominator of combat sports.

But after watching a few fights – which take place in a makeshift octagon known as 'Satan's Backyard' – Streetbeefs seems more than just, as some critics have labelled it, a ‘white trash fight club’, from which entertainment is derived by ‘throwing two hillbillies in a meat-slapping contest’.

Some of the talent on display is actually pretty decent, and it's easy to see why Streetbeefs has become a YouTube hit.

Viewers are drawn in by the raw visceral energy of the fighters, and their crude surrounds. Also, the undeniable freak show spectacle on offer, which reliably serves up generous helpings of the bizarre.

Streetbeef's roster of fighters are a colorful assortment of what appear to be ex-cons, drifters, trailer park residents, and troubled youth, who fight under some of the best nicknames you're likely to hear:

Baby Hulk, Iraqi Assassin, White Trash Animal, Italian Tyson, Kuntry Hoodlum, Cornflake (AKA The Cereal Killer), Jamaican Rudeboy, Mr. Mud – the list goes on.

And the promotion offers intriguing matchups you're not likely to see on a UFC pay-per-view any time soon.

Like that between a really short, stocky black dude, and a tall, skinny, white guy (video above). Or the type of fights that were once confined to the prison yard, like that between a reformed neo-Nazi and Crip (video below).

Fights like these are par for the course for Streetbeefs.

1. How did Streetbeefs start?

Streetbeefs is the brainchild of ex-con-turned-backyard fight promoter Chris 'Scarface' Willmore, who started the promotion under the credo of 'guns down, gloves up.'

Willmore, who was the focus of the New York Times documentary 'Guns to Gloves', wanted to create a safe space, if you will, where troubled neighbourhood men could settle beefs in controlled fashion.

His philanthropic strain stems from personal experience. Willmore was once stabbed in the throat over a petty argument, and has lost friends to beefs that escalated into gun violence.

"Several people that I knew died in violent street encounters. And that's why I created Streetbeefs," says Willmore in 'Guns to Gloves'.
"If you had a dispute, and you were afraid it was going to get out of hand, I'd allow you to solve your dispute in a controlled fashion with MMA gloves and a ref."

In 2008, he began hosting fights in what he calls 'Satan's Backyard' – the Madison Square Garden of backyard MMA – otherwise known as a strip of patchy grass out the back of Willmore's Harrisonburg home.

Willmore explained the genesis of the name 'Satan's Backyard' to his YouTube followers thusly:

"The first beef fight we had was between Animal and Rampage Black. Long story short, Rampage Black got knocked out severely. He had blood coming out of his eardrum, his mouth, his nose. He got f**ked up.
"I talked to him a couple of days later and said 'What was it like, yo?' And he said 'It was like hell. Walking back to get to your yard was just scary. When I got back there it was so hot.' So that's where we got the nickname Satan's Backyard."

Curiously, Willmore also made sure to clarify – owing to online criticism he received for the name – his stance on Satanism, and put paid to any speculation that he himself is Lucifer:

"It has nothing to do with any devil worshipping sh*t. I'm not a Satan worshipper. I'm not Satan. And it's silly that people take the nickname for anything else than what it really is."

2. How do Streetbeefs fights work?

Amongst other venues, which include patches of dirt by a forest, Streetbeefs fights principally take place in Satan's Backyard, where combatants fight over three, two-minute rounds.

The venue is a far cry from the state athletic commission-sanctioned variety of the UFC.

Fighters duke it out on dirt, sometimes mud or leaves, in an octagon made of the type of chain-link fence you'd see at a construction site. Black-painted plywood, on which bears the names of vaunted competitors, acts as a much-needed buffer when fighters are slammed against the cage.

Sometimes, fights take place in what appears to be the edge of the woods, with all manner of junk – discarded truck tyres, chairs, and other assorted detritus – providing intriguing backdrop to the action.

Fighter's aren't paid, however, they're not charged an admission fee either, which means Streetbeefs falls outside the jurisdiction of state licensing.

As per Streetbeefs' YouTube channel, the rules of combat are pretty simple:

"No guns, no knives, no gang of friends jumping in. Just you, your Foe, the referee, and a group of spectators."

It also notes, as if to preemptively answer what most are thinking, that "OUR EXHIBITION MATCHES ARE 100% LEGAL."

Chris Willmore has elsewhere stated that biting, gouging, groin strikes, and hair pulling are outlawed.

Fighters supply their own 14-ounce boxing gloves, or four to six ounce MMA gloves. And in terms of fight wear, anything goes. Wife-beaters, rash guards, basketball shorts, even jeans and sneakers, are all apparently acceptable.

Some fighters simply enter the octagon (or, as below, a crudely fashioned square of tubing) dressed in what seems their regular clothes. Like Ron 'The West Virginia Ninja,' who as per the dictates of Bushido, fought Icy Mike wearing what appears to be cargo pants and a loose-fitting polo shirt.

While Streetbeefs began as a medium for beef-resolution – and still is – it has become increasingly organised along the lines of professional combat sports.

Willmore offers insight into Streetbeefs' operating model, and its raison d'etre, on his Youtube page (emphasis his):

"I've settled hundreds of disputes in our area, and hope to settle THOUSANDS more, all while entertaining my viewers. SOME MATCHES ARE PURELY FOR SPORT, some are REAL beef, and ALL are entertaining."

Streetbeefs currently features weight classes for both MMA and boxing, with title fights and divisional champions.

And yes, for those wondering about Streetbeefs commitment to gender equality, women also fight under its banner, whose nicknames are just as good as the men's:

Fierce Honey, Psycho, Gash, Knock 'Em Down, Mrs. Mud – to name a few. Their fights are just as gritty as anything on the Streetbeefs catalogue.

Like this David vs Goliath bout, seemingly fought at catchweight, where fight promoters took a very liberal attitude to weight differentials.

Or this slugfest between Big Country Girl and Female Bodybuilder.

The promotion has even gone where no combat sports dares by hosting inter-gender bouts, like this one between Gash and Gumby.

3. Streetbeefs is growing – fast

For someone who was once in a cycle of prison, opioid-addiction, and drug dealing, Chris Willmore has done pretty well for himself.

Behind the scenes, he's steered Streetbeefs to off-the-charts growth, all while doubling as ring announcer, part-time referee, and occasional fighter.

In the early days, Wilmore posted just a few videos each year. It wasn't until 2015 that he upped the production value and monetized his YouTube channel. In 2018, Streetbeefs posted more than 220 videos.

The channel now boasts over 1,600 videos with close to half a billion total views, and 1.88 million subscribers. Per month, Streetbeefs' views are growing by over 24 million, and its subscriber base by 70,000 – all while scraping in up to an estimated $126,000 in monthly earnings.

Streetbeefs has also picked up mainstream exposure on the public relations front, with storied publications like ESPN, the Washington Post, and the New York Times keen to latch on to its 'guns down, gloves up' narrative.

Willmore has also featured in several documentaries, detailing his rise from a life of crime and misfortune, to starting Streetbeefs.

The promotion even had a video game in the works, Streetbeefs: Gloves Up, before it was abandoned due to the competition posed by UFC 4.

In 2020, Willmore announced that Streetbeefs had struck a verbal deal which would see the best Steetbeefs talent siphoned into the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship. It's believed this deal fell through.

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