NPR on how the best fighters climb the ranks to reach televised glory:
Here's how the game works. Two crickets — always males — are weighed to the closest hundredth of a gram and then paired off by weight class like prizefighters. They are placed in a clear plastic ring nearly the size of a dinner plate, with a dividing wall separating the two insects. A referee signals go time, then slides out the ring divider to let the bugs face off.
The owners poke a special reed in to lightly brush their crickets, which goads them into fighting. The critters lunge and swipe their pincer-like mandibles at each other. A referee closely monitors the tiny combatants, noting the number of attacks and retreats.
They are precious enough that their owners never let them fight to the death, and injuries are rare.
Vice posted a documentary a few years ago: