The emperor has re-invented the andabatae
"The Emperor (may he live forever) has invented a new form of battle for his birthday gladiatorial spectacle": boo, hiss.
The emperor shows the same lack of a classical education, and indeed a barbarous disregard for all things Roman, as our very own Chasly from UK.
andābătă, -ae, m., a kind of Roman gladiator, whose helmet was without openings for the eyes, and who therefore fought blindfolded for the amusement of spectators. (A Latin Dictionary, founded on Andrews' edition of Freund's Latin dictionary, revised, enlarged, and in great part rewritten by. Charlton T. Lewis, Ph.D. and. Charles Short, LL.D., Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1879. Available at Perseus.)
Wikipedia has this to say:
A "blindfolded gladiator", or a "gladiator who fought blind". Cicero jokingly refers to andabata in a letter to his friend Trebatius Testa, who was stationed in Gaul. The passage associates the andabata loosely with essedarii, chariot fighters. The word is extremely rare in classical sources, and of doubtful etymology; Delamarre suggests it as a Latinised borrowing from Gaulish. (Wikipedia, s.v. List of gladiator types)
The reference in Wikipedia is to M. Tullius Cicero, Epistulae ad familiares (Letters to Friends), 7.10.2:
(Cicero writing from Rome to his protégé C. Trebatius Testa in Gaul, in November or December 54 BC)
Sed tu in re militari multo es cautior quam in advocationibus, qui neque in Oceano natare volueris studiosissimus homo natandi neque spectare essedarios, quem antea ne andabata quidem defraudare poteramus. Sed iam satis iocati sumus.
However, in military matters you are much more cautious than at the bar, seeing that you wouldn't take a swim in the ocean, fond of swimming as you are, and wouldn't take a look at the British charioteers, though in old time I could never cheat you even out of a blind-folded gladiator.² But enough of joking.
²) Andabatam, a gladiator with a closed helmet covering the face, who thus fought without seeing his adversary.
(Translation and note by Evelyn Shuckburgh, 1901. Available on Wikimedia.)
Note that the andabatae were considered comic relief -- they fought for the entertainment of spectators. Nobody paid to see blindfolded men bumbling around; and the Romans actually knew a thing or two about gladiators.
For the poor, and for non-citizens, enrollment in a gladiator school offered a trade, regular food, housing of sorts and a fighting chance of fame and fortune. Mark Antony chose a troupe of gladiators to be his personal bodyguard. Gladiators customarily kept their prize money and any gifts they received, and these could be substantial. Tiberius offered several retired gladiators 100,000 sesterces each to return to the arena. Nero gave the gladiator Spiculus property and residence "equal to those of men who had celebrated triumphs."
(Wikipedia, s.v. Gladiator. The quotation is from Suetonius.)
Finally, here is an extract from The Private Life of Romans by Harold Whetstone Johnson, Chicago, 1909, available at Project Gutenberg:
Gladiators fought usually in pairs, man against man, but sometimes in masses (gregātim, catervātim). In early times they were actually soldiers, captives taken in war (§347), and fought naturally with the weapons and equipment to which they were accustomed. When the professionally trained gladiators came in, they were given the old names, and were called Samnites, Thracians, etc., according to their arms and tactics. In much later times victories over distant peoples were celebrated with combats in which the weapons and methods of war of the conquered were shown to the people of Rome; thus, after the conquest of Britain essedāriī exhibited in the arena the tactics of chariot fighting which Caesar had described generations before in his Commentaries. It was natural enough, too, for the people to want to see different arms and different tactics tried against each other, and so the Samnite was matched against the Thracian, the heavy armed against the light armed. This became under the Empire the favorite style of combat.
Finally when people had tired of the regular shows, novelties were introduced that seem to us grotesque; men fought blindfold (andabatae), armed with two swords (dimachaerī), with the lasso (laqueatōrēs), with a heavy net (rētiāriī), and there were battles of dwarfs and of dwarfs with women. Of these the rētiārius became immensely popular. He carried a huge net in which he tried to entangle his opponent, always a secūtor (see below), despatching him with a dagger if the throw was successful. If unsuccessful he took to flight while preparing his net for another throw, of if he had lost his net tried to keep his opponent off with a heavy three-pronged spear (fuscina), his only weapon beside the dagger.