The reverse sportivization of mixed martial arts: An object against the current?

Research papers
By Yann Ramirez

Mixed martial arts (MMA) still generates lively discussions within a context of questions about Elias’ theories. Its level of physical violence and its organizational structures cast doubts on the process of violence control in sports. MMA throws into question the process of sportivization as described by Norbert Elias and Eric Dunning. We note a “reverse sportivization,” where the competitive aspect is historically ahead of the game and leisure aspects, oscillating between different steps of sportivization and de-sportivization. In the context of the legalization of the sport in France in 2020, we question the spectacle’s diktat at all costs. Is its development still dependent on de-sportivized aspects? These aspects include the “cage,” non-sporting elements, or the porosity of rules. In order to provide answers, the methodology is based on 42 interviews conducted between 2011 and 2015, including fighters and/or spectators who experienced the Pride FC era between 1997 and 2007. The research also contains a video corpus, including 68 Pride FC events and 500 Ultimate Fighting Championship events between 1993 and November 2019. Five pankration and kenpō events have been observed between 2011 and 2015. The sportivized model of MMA results in a sport-spectacle. The Japanese organization of Pride was a highly spectacular interlude, while the American organization of UFC developed a more sportivized, standardized, and balanced model, between sport and spectacle, in the early 2000s.

  • mixed martial arts
  • spectacularization
  • sportivization
  • standardization
  • media
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