We've told you before about the mysterious and muscular young men who have been staging public fights in Union Square—right in the shadow of Whole Foods, HSBC, and the Virgin Megastore. New York magazine profiles them this week—the "Union Square Spartans" are from rough-and-tumble backgrounds, sometimes homeless, and have a habit of uploading their fights to YouTube. ("They know many among their growing body of fans take voyeuristic pleasure in watching them fight, and they're somehow looking to make money off the whole business, but they are warriors without a business plan.") And the fighters confirm the existence of mythical urban-legend underground fight clubs:

While he was working as a bouncer around town, he started visiting underground fight clubs, mostly in Chinatown. Legend says he would find himself in a basement surrounded by screaming drunks. Another fighter would enter the circle, and they would battle with no rules until one of them was unconscious. Legend says he'd leave the room with concussions, broken ribs, and maybe a couple of hundred dollars. "Those places, they only stop the fight if the crowd stops cheering or begins leaving," he says. "They don't really care if you live or die."

Cool! Just as we always suspected.

But there was a publicity boomlet. The blog And I Am Not Lying wrote about the fights in May, other blogs followed, and crowds began to show up at Spartan fights. The Triangle enjoyed the spotlight in a charmingly time-delayed way. A printout of the And I Am Not Lying item arrived like a nineteenth-century transatlantic letter, three weeks after the fact. Legend carried it around for a while like a holy relic. There was one line he loved to quote: He kept asking the other Spartans, "Am I really ‘petite and diamond hard?'"

However, possibly due to the aforementioned YouTube antics, cops have been putting the heat on them lately, and they may have to take their act to Tompkins Square Park—as one fighter said, ""I told you putting this on YouTube was a mistake. We're moving too fast. This wasn't supposed to be about us getting famous."

[Photo by Anya Roz via AndIamnotlying]

Spartan Warriors in the YouTube Age. [New York]