STRICTLY pro AJ Pritchard and his brother Curtis have told The Sun they are lucky to be alive after being beaten up in a club.
The pair, who were set upon by a gang of eight thugs, revealed Curtis, 23, faced knee surgery to save his dancing career.
AJ, 24, said his brother took the brunt of the beating to protect him.
Curtis added: “It could have been fatal.”
The BBC1 favourite, 24, said 23-year-old Curtis was knocked unconscious as he risked his own dance career to protect him.
AJ was badly bruised but Curtis suffered a suspected broken nose, blurred vision, a split lip and a knee injury which will need surgery so he can dance again.
In an exclusive joint interview with The Sun, AJ said: “Curtis risked his own dancing career to save mine as he threw himself in front of the attackers so they couldn’t get to me. He was thinking of both my dancing career with my legs and my TV career with my face.
“He tried to protect me and in doing so saved my life and my legs from danger.
“I soon realised there were no winners in this scenario. I just wanted us both to come out alive. I care more about Curtis than I do about selfies and looking good.”
The pair had been enjoying a family Christmas at their home in Stoke-on-Trent, where their parents Debi and Adrian run a dancing school.
AJ said: “We’d been lots of times before and the staff there know us, so we felt it was a safe place for us to go.”
But the pair believe the attention AJ was receiving from female Strictly fans sparked the thugs’ jealous rage.
Talking exclusively to The Sun, AJ revealed Curtis risked his life and career to save him from being battered further[/caption]
The brothers and a couple of their friends moved on to the dancefloor where they were set upon.
AJ, who finished fifth in this year’s Strictly alongside celebrity partner Lauren Steadman, said: “We were dancing as a group and, out of the blue, Curtis was violently pushed from the side. It all happened so quickly. Suddenly, we were surrounded by about eight blokes.
“He stuck his arms out to try and stop them and moved in front of me. But we were punched and kicked from all angles. We had no time to defend ourselves, by the time we even put our hands up we were being punched and kicked.
“It was like a scene out of a movie, with all the aggression and violence. Nothing like this had ever happened to us before.
AJ and his partner Lauren Steadman came fifth in this year’s Strictly competition[/caption]
“I couldn’t even take in the pain from the kicks and punching. I just knew we had to get away.”
Curtis added: “There were about eight lads on two of us and we’re not fighters.
“We’re not there for a fight. We don’t want to cause trouble.
“We were just minding our own business, then all of a sudden there was a load of lads around us. I just felt a hard, violent push on my left side, as if someone had lunged at me, and that’s when it all kicked off.
“I looked up to see what was happening and I saw four lads go to grab AJ and I thought, ‘I’ve got to get in between them and him to protect him’.
“So I put my arm over to push him backwards out the way and intercepted them with my body. That’s when people were all around us and started violently swinging and hitting at us. It was crazy.
“Because my arms were down trying to protect AJ and push him back, a massive hook came at my face and hit me in the right eye and seconds later a second hook came again and hit me in the same place on my right eye.
“That’s when my legs turned to jelly and I went down and blacked out. It was terrifying. I didn’t know what was happening.
The club where the violent attack took place is a regular haunt of the dancing duo and their mates[/caption]
“Just as I was going down, another hook came and hit me in the eye again. After that I was getting kicked on the floor.”
As security staff moved in, AJ was able to drag a limp and unconscious Curtis off the dancefloor and to safety.
AJ said: “He’d been badly punched and kicked in the face and body and I knew I had to get him away so dragged his body under my arm away from danger.
“His shins were severely hit, his nose, lips and face were bloody. He looked a mess. His eye was closed up and his whole face looked swollen. My T-shirt was covered in his blood. I was terrified.”
Curtis said he feared he had lost his sight in one eye but was more worried about the injuries to his legs.
He says: “I remember waking up and people were saying, ‘Your face!’. I couldn’t even see through one eye but I was panicking, shouting, ‘My knee, my knee — I can’t walk. I can’t put pressure on it.’
“I knew it wasn’t good. I wasn’t even thinking about my face, I was more worried about my leg. I was thinking, ‘If my leg’s not working I can’t do the dancing that I’ve trained my entire life for’.
“People can still dance blind but they need their legs.”
Bouncers closed the club while police and ambulances were called. The brothers were taken to hospital for treatment.
AJ said: “When I looked in the mirror I was shocked and upset.
“My whole face looked swollen and bruised and there were ring marks from the punching all over my arms. It was awful. I’m painfully bruised, especially on my shins. They’re really bad.
“I needed to ice all over my body and face to stop the swelling but Curtis got the brunt of it as he was protecting me.”
AJ Pritchard was partnered with Lauren Steadman on Strictly Come Dancing[/caption]
Curtis danced with publisher Norah Casey on the Irish show[/caption]
Curtis, who was still having hospital treatment yesterday, was badly concussed. He has pulled out of Dancing With The Stars in Ireland. He said: “I don’t know what I’ll do if I can’t dance again.
“I just hope that operation can save me. Something can go wrong on the operating table. There’s a chance my dancing career is over.”
AJ added: “It’s been a vile and shocking experience.
“Seeing my dad crying is the worst. This endless violence in the UK has to stop.”
Cheshire police say a 20-year-old man was arrested and released under investigation.
Stars rally round and blast ‘low life’ thugs
MESSAGES of support for AJ and his brother Curtis flooded in from the Strictly “family”.
AJ’s 2018 dance partner, Paralympic athlete Lauren Steadman, tweeted: “Hoping my dance partner will get his smile back soon @aj11ace wishing AJ and @curtispritchard12 speedy recoveries.”
Strictly’s head judge Shirley Ballas was concerned about how dangerous the streets had become. She said: “My thoughts and prayers are with @Aj11Ace @CurtisPritchard the world has become a dangerous place.”
Pro dancer Karen Clifton was also shocked by the “extremely disturbing incident” and hoped those responsible are caught and punished.
2018 finalist Joe Sugg was “saddened” while pro dancer Aljaz Skorjanec was left fuming by the attack on “two lovely guys that mean no harm to anyone ever!” And he said to the attackers: “Shall we dance?”
MOST READ IN TV AND SHOWBIZ
OH YES HE DID
Party-loving Blue singer Lee Ryan disappears from Aladdin panto at interval
Richard Madeley & Judy Finnigan beam with pride as Chloe weds James Haskell
Lisa Appleton shows her bare bum as she takes out her bins in a Santa hat
Actor James Buckley nearly died on set of Inbetweeners Field Trip episode
Jane Danson’s heartbreaking miscarriage means she’s unlikely to have third child
Caroline Flack poses in see-through top & reveals she’s been ‘dying inside’
Tour host and previous winner Ore Oduba echoed Aljaz’s anger saying: “Hope they find the low lifes and put them away.”
Pro dancer Katya Jones wondered what had happened to the season of goodwill, adding: “It’s Christmas people! Where is humanity going?” Pro dancer Oti Mabuse was “so sad” while fellow pro Giovanni Pernice felt “disgusted”.
Former pro James Jordan was seething at the “idiots”, adding: “Real tough guys! I hope Karma comes back to get you!” And It Takes Two host Zoe Ball called the incident “brutal” and “heartbreaking”.
- GOT a story? RING The Sun on 0207 782 4104 or WHATSAPP on 07423720250 or EMAIL email@example.com