The stakes are high, as the winnings can lift many fighters out of poverty
In Senegal, with record high 48% unemployment in 2014 , winning a wrestling fight can be a ticket out of poverty for some.
Traditional West African lutte, or lamb wrestling, has become an integral part of the Senegalese culture in the last couple of decades. Lutte dates back to the 14th century and is a no-holds-barred wrestling match, where two fighters compete to knock each other out of the ring, or onto the ground. The matches can last anywhere between 30 seconds and 30 minutes and are rooted in historic folklore and mystic practices.
Competitors can earn hundreds to thousands of dollars in endorsements. The sport’s popularity has grown significantly, and has entered the realm of corporate sponsorship.
“These days, lutte creates a lot of employment in our country,” lutte fighter Maodo Dione, known as Gris 2 by his fans, said. “For us, it’s our ticket out of poverty.”
Fighters represent different neighborhoods of Dakar, the capital of Senegal, and the pressure to deliver victory to their fans is tremendous, said Dione.