The Romans loved bloody sports. The Romans referred to these sports or contests as the games. Games were held in the sports stadiums that were built all over the Roman Empire. The sports stadium in Rome was called the Colosseum or the Flavian Amphitheatre.
At some events, men would fight fierce animals like lions and alligators. The more interesting and exotic these animals were to the ancient Romans, the more they liked the contest. Before combat, the animals were treated very badly. They were beaten and starved so they would be especially mean. Usually, the men won. But sometimes the animals won, and the Romans found that especially exciting. But these fighters were not the famous gladiators.
The gladiators fought other gladiators. The fights were not like you see in the movies. In ancient Rome, the gladiator battle was not always or even often to the death. This does not mean a gladiators life was easy. Their life was not easy at all. Some people chose to become gladiators. Others were slaves, forced into the sport, and usually found themselves the loser. Most gladiators were a little chubby, although they were in excellent condition. They wanted extra body weight to help protect themselves when they were stabbed or hit. They were stabbed and hit a lot. But gladiators who won most of their matches were famous. The crowds would cheer when they entered the arena.
As time went on, the bloody fights became more organized. Gladiators were pitted against other gladiators their own size, who had won a similar number of battles. This converted the sport into competitions. There were a few women who were gladiators, and they fought other women. Referees were added to monitor the fight. A referee could stop the fight at any time, and usually did when one gladiator was injured. Sometimes, fights went on for quite a while. If the crowd got bored, the referee might call the fight a drawn. If the emperor was in attendance, he might ask the crowd for a decision on whether or not to kill the loser, but people had their favorites. They wanted their gladiators alive, so they could fight again another day.