The Gladiators were created by writer Ann Nocenti and artist Don Perlin.
Originally, the Gladiators were started by Hugo Longride and Alexander Flynn as a mutant fight club for the entertainment of wealthy spectators in the market for exotic entertainment. Flynn, believing himself to be the illegitimate son of Victor Von Doom, plotted to use the Gladiators as an army to help him reclaim his birthright. This plot was thwarted through the intervention of the Beast and Allison Blaire, the Dazzler. The Gladiators were nearly disbanded as a result.
The group found a new leader in Xian Coy Manh, the New Mutant known as Karma, who was possessed by the Shadow King. The Shadow King operated behind the scenes, interacting with his new minions through holographic projections of Flynn. Dazzler infiltrated the groups ranks to help liberate members of the New Mutants who had been coerced to join. The New Mutants and Dazzler, with the help of Storm, defeated the Gladiators and the Shadow King.
A similar underground fight club gained prominence in Japan under the direction of the Morlock known as Masque, but this team was not known to have been affiliated with the American group. This club was exposed through the intercession of Storm, Strong Guy, Yukio, and Callisto.
All of the Gladiators have numerous scars and many have artificial limbs. All are expert fighters using swords and other bladed medieval-style weapons. Members of the group took a drug, in the form of a red-hued liquid, which Gladiator member Max Rocker described as lowering 'the user's inhibitions and intensifying his or her violent inhibitions.