People are always getting into fights in the clubs. But not like this.

Once a month at Myth -- that giant nightclub in the 'burbs -- the dance floor disappears to make way for a big chain-link octagonal ring.

Tonight, once again, it's Fight Night. Some of the state's toughest SOBs will square off in brutal full-contact combat, just as they do on TV's "Ultimate Fighting Championship."

While critics call it human cockfighting, its followers prefer "mixed martial arts." One thing's for sure: People love it. Myth sold 1,400 tickets for its last fight. The action doesn't come cheap. The cheapest general-admission ticket was $25, while a few fans forked over as much as $3,000 for a VIP suite.

If your idea of full-contact fighting is two barbarians bludgeoning each other in a cage as rowdy boneheads cheer them on, then you haven't been to Myth. While they do attract enough Neanderthals to tackle a woolly mammoth, the fights, and the crowd, are more sophisticated than you'd expect.

There are even a lot of women, many of them dressed as if they were going out clubbing (which they are, sort of ). Not to be outdone, many guys sport those $45 designer Affliction T-shirts, popularized by UFC stars such as Chuck (The Iceman) Liddell and Quinton (Rampage) Jackson.

With the Myth's swanky decor and state-of-the-art lighting, it can seem a lot like a Vegas fight, if you forget the fact that Myth sits next to a Toys 'R' Us in Maplewood.

Brütaal, the night's promoter, stages the event in true sports-as-spectacle fashion, often taking cues from the UFC's TV production. "Ring girls" strut with cards displaying the round number, while a slick-talking announcer in reptile-skin boots does postfight interviews with the winners. He also slips in little commercial plugs for local sponsors between fights. ("Broadway Pizza ... mmm-mm, pizza!")

The cage itself is a smaller version of the UFC octagon, a large, menacing structure plastered with corporate ad logos. But instead of Budweiser and Harley-Davidson, the main sponsor here is the King of Diamonds strip club.

'I want to see some blood'

Fight Night has been running for two years at Myth, attracting a steady list of high rollers who often buy out the VIP booths along the second-level balcony. A group of bankers rented out several suites in March. You'll see Vikings players and other club owners. At the last fight, Envy's Deepak Nath rolled up in a stretch Hummer with a large entourage.

You'll also find plenty of working professionals. Michael Piza, a 28-year-old dental hygienist from Anoka, came out to the last one after he heard that an old high school friend was fighting. "I hadn't seen him in 10 years," Piza said.

He also thought the fight would make a nice romantic evening. Luckily, his date, Heather McInerney of St. Paul, thought so, too.

"I'm a closet UFC fan," she said. "I wish there were more knockouts. I want to see some blood."

Yikes. Well, if it's blood you want, then it's blood you get. With those tiny gloves and the ability to use bare elbows and knees, it's common for a fighter to bust a nose or split open an eyebrow. In March, one fighter finished his match covered in blood -- and he was the winner.

While a knockout is the flashy way to end a fight, some fans prefer the art of "submission," when an opponent is forced to give up for fear of passing out from a chokehold, or having his arm broken by some especially vicious grip. He signals his surrender by "tapping out" -- literally, patting his hand on the mat or his opponent's body.

In the midst of battle, you'll hear hard-core fans yelling out the technical terms for these submission holds. "Triangle choke!" "Kimura!" "Heel hook!"

More often, however, these shouts can sound a bit barbaric, like the commonly heard howl of "Knee him!"

Don't worry, paramedics are standing by and the Minnesota Boxing Commission has a representative overseeing each fight.

Joe Vruno of Hugo was in the crowd at the last one. The unassuming 26-year-old, who runs an Internet marketing company, had never gone before -- he's only a casual fan, he said.

"If you want my honest opinion, I've always thought you would have to be on something to get inside that cage," Vruno said.

He paused, then added:

"That's not to say deep down I don't wish I could do that. That'd be pretty sweet." • 612-673-7909