PhD Candidate Gordon Brett discusses the violence and culture in MMA Fighting

July 17, 2019 by Julia Barone

PhD Candidate Gordon Brett has written an article using concepts within cultural sociology to analyze the perceptions and understandings of violence in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). In particular, he looks at the ability of MMA to be viewed as a legitimate cultural form with artistic merits.

Gordon Brett is a Doctoral Candidate at the University of Toronto's Sociology Department.  His research interests lie at the intersection of sociological theory, culture, cognition, and the body/embodiment.

Those with access can view the article on Science Direct. We have posted the full citation and abstract below.

Brett, G. (2017). "Reframing the ‘Violence’of Mixed Martial Arts: The ‘Art’of the fight" Poetics, 62: 15-28.

This paper deploys conceptual and analytical tools from cultural sociology to analyze Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). While often characterized as violent and uncivilized, MMA has a core following of fans who watch MMA and consume MMA media out of an interest in the aesthetics of the sport. As salient actors within the ‘internally legitimate’ sphere of the sport, this paper explores the way the MMA media construct symbolic boundaries around different kinds of fights through aesthetic and moral evaluations. Through qualitative content analysis of MMA media discourse, I attempt to reconstruct their general aesthetic principles, demonstrating a fourfold typology of MMA in practice: repulsive ‘excessive violence’, boring ‘insufficient action’, soft ‘palatable practices’, and sublime ‘aesthetic violence’. This framework allows the MMA media as ‘connoisseurs’ to create hierarchical ‘distinctions’ between their aesthetic attitudes and those of more casual ‘mass’ audiences. This research may prove useful for scholars interested in MMA, culture, and sports media studies.