Slap fighting is more ubiquitous than ever. Events such as UFC president Dana White's Power Slap have thrust it into the mainstream like never before. However, much like other combat sports, slap fighting has existed in some form or other for years.
Slapping is an action as old as kicking or punching. Slaps can be funny, humiliating, and especially painful. Contests exclusively consisting of the strike were a natural evolution and the game has undergone many iterations.
However, competitive Slap fighting resembling the sport popular today can be traced to tests of will held between Russian strongmen. Viral videos of these contests catapulted the sport to new heights around 2017.
Combatants stood across a table from one another and took turns slapping till someone quit or got knocked unconscious. No flinching or blocking was allowed. Underground competitions gained steam and spread throughout Eastern Europe. Eventually, organized leagues like Punch Down out of Poland and the Slap Fighting Championship out of Branson Missouri popped up in 2017.
The popularity of fail compilations and those of people performing outrageous stunts on YouTube made it inevitable for Slap fighting to find a wider audience. Engagement reached new heights during the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to the sport's simplicity and audience-friendly nature.
Viral stars like Russian sensation Vasily "Dumpling" Kamotsky entertained audiences with devastating knockouts and brutal contests. Kamotsky's fights are some of the most popular on the internet and he is arguably one of the sport's greatest competitors thus far.
2022 marked a turning point for Slap fighting, as it gained further legitimacy after being featured in Arnold Schwarzenegger's Arnold Sports Classic. Slap fights were organized specifically for the event and hosted by Schwarzenegger alongside popular YouTuber as well as boxer, Logan Paul.
As the sport gained exposure, concerns mounted over its safety and overall merit. This reached its ultimate peak when White premiered his Power Slap show on TBS in early 2023. Combat sports fans were immediately polarized over the level of exposure Slap fighting received during UFC broadcasts.
Slap fighting grows despite its controversy and humble beginnings
Despite only lasting a season on TBS, Power Slap still holds events and is actively promoted and championed by White. It now airs on Rumble and the promotion will be hosting it's sixth live event in February.
Through an unlikely rise, Slap fighting has become part of the vernacular for fight fans. Its growth from an Eastern European anomaly to a network television event has garnered intense positive and negative reactions. While debates will likely never end, it's certain Slapfighting has come a long way from its Russian beginnings.