Producing pain: Techniques and technologies in no-holds-barred fighting

Greg Downey*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

55 Citations (Scopus)


Starting in 1993, the Ultimate Fighting Championship broadcast 'no-holds-barred' fights, pitting athletes trained in a variety of combat sports against each other. While critics were scandalized by the permissiveness of these contests, aficionados were stunned by the effectiveness of relatively non-violent fighting techniques. The matches revealed how resilient a trained fighter's body might become. Fighters had to adapt to several waves of changes in fighting strategies and to strategic revisions of match regulations intended to make them more obviously violent. Seemingly minor changes in the tools available to contestants - 'mundane technology' such as the structure of the fighting space, standardized clothing and lightweight gloves - shifted radically how contestants' bodies could be used. In addition, fighters modified their own bodies to make them better suited for the activity, for example, altering perceptions of pain. Ironically, the mass-mediated presentation of deregulated fighting revealed that, instead of being humanity's natural state, it was technically demanding, dependent upon substantial enculturation of athletes' bodies, and far from instinctual.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201-226
Number of pages26
JournalSocial Studies of Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2007

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Producing pain: Techniques and technologies in no-holds-barred fighting'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this