Pit fighting is an important part of Imperial Orc culture that dates back to the time of their enslavement. Most orcs enjoy fighting, they enjoy watching it and they enjoy participating in much the same way a citizen of the Marches might enjoy a ball game. Battle is a spiritual experience for many, allowing them to draw closer to their ancestors but at a practical level they find blowing off steam by fighting helps them to maintain their cool at other times. As much as orcs enjoy fighting, Imperial Orcs know that there is a time and a place for everything, hotheads who want to settle everything with weapons are routinely told to "take it to the pits".
As slaves it was rare for the Imperial Orcs to be allowed opportunities to fight. Fighting skills are rarely considered an advantage for a slave and few Imperial citizens were interested in allowing their slaves to harm each other. As a result it was common for orcs to fight secretly after work shifts were completed, which often meant in fighting in the small cells or pits that were often used to house slaves. Such fights were rarely fatal, a death would bring collective punishment for those who survived, but murder is not the point of a pit-fight, it is about experiencing the thrill of battle and the joy of pushing yourself to the physical limit. The tradition of pit-fighting was born of these secret bouts.
Some orc slaves were allowed to fight, indeed some were forced to. Prize fights were often bet on in the League, but such encounters were usually staged or rigged, the outcome was determined in advance. In the minds of most orcs, this profanes what should be a spiritual experience, cheapening it and robbing it of its primal glory. As a result, a considerable taboo against betting on pit-fights remains amongst Imperial Orcs. To bet on someone in a pit-fight suggests you think you own the fighter and have the right to gain from their victory - it still happens but those involved are usually careful to be discreet about what they doing.
There is a taboo against betting on the outcome, but none against screaming your support for friends or members of your legion. A good pit-fight is one that leaves the audience feeling like they have been in the pit themselves, their voice hoarse from shouting, their feet sore from drumming the floor. The brutal energy of the pit-fight helps the fighters push themselves to their limits, but it is also what draws the attention of the ancestors and brings them close enough that the orcs can hear their words. Without the encouragement of the onlookers, the entire experience would be as soulless as a League duel and as dull as a Marcher morality play, for the orcs it would be without purpose.
While it is uncommon, there is no taboo against other Imperial citizens participating in a pit fight. Testing one's mettle against an Orc champion, especially a professional pit fighter is most common among Dawnish nobles seeking glory and the more open-minded Highborn looking for a fresh competition in which to test themselves.
Pit-fights are rarely held in pits in longer, since it makes harder for a large audience to see what is happening. Imperial Orcs still like to preserve the claustrophobic feel of the original pit fights, so they usually take place in a purpose built cage of some kind. There are few rules, fights usually end when one participant "has no fight left in them". Participants arm and armour themselves as they see fit, fighting unarmed has a tendency to remind older Imperial Orcs of the days when they were forbidden to use weapons. Provided there are chirurgeons on hand to tend the wounds and nobody dies, the matter is completely legal according to Imperial Law.
Pit-fights are a significant part of Imperial Orc culture, a revered practice that entertains and unites orcs in the Empire. Some individuals find themselves drawn to the experience of the pits, returning to fight there over and over. Some are drawn simply by the adrenalin of the experience, finding the roar of the crowd and the adrenaline of the challenge is too addictive to resist.
The very best are able to become professional pit-fighters. They trade on the reputation for skill and strength that they have built up in previous fights, until their notoriety means that other orcs begin to seek them out and actively challenge them. Most pit-fights are fought for joy of battle, some are fought to settle grudges and establish a rough pecking order. A professional pit-fighter can charge for the right to fight them because an orc wants to make a name for themself beating one of the best or perhaps because they want to learn something from the fight. The best pit-fighters are not just warriors, they are experts at working the crowd to a fever-pitch, so some orcs prefer to fight them just because the onlookers make the fight so much more rewarding. The taboos against betting on a pit-fight do not apply to making your own living from it - and the best pit-fighters are legends - at least amongst the orcs.
A few pit-fighters see their role as more than just a great way to make a living. Pit-fights are a deeply spiritual experience, for participants as well as for onlookers. The energy of the crowd, the adrenalin of the battle beckons to the ancestors and draws them closer. Many pit-fighters hear their ancestors urging them on during the fight and this experience is what drives many orcs to return to the pit over and over again. It is even more important for Imperial Orc shamans who need to commune with the ancestors and consult them to offer their guidance for the warlords.
As a result some skilled pit-fighters are closely associated with the shamans, working with them to decipher the wisdom from their words and determine what advice the ancestors are trying to communicate. These fighters see their job as a calling, they compete to make their battles as dramatic and exciting as possible, the better to allow themselves and the shamans to hear the voices of the past. Shamans often query fighters on what they heard, if anything, while fighting, but pit-fighters who emphasize the spiritual side of their calling will often ensconce themselves with the shamans for hours afterwards, working together to make sense of the ancestors' words.