So you want to be a fighter? Institutional work and sport development processes at an elite mixed martial arts gym

Jules Woolf, Brennan K. Berg, Brianna L. Newland, B. Christine Green

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Mixed martial arts (MMA) is a rapidly growing combat sport with unique development procedures unlike most traditional sports. In this study the development processes at an exemplar MMA gym were examined. Institutional work theory was used to understand how and why the sport is being developed in this setting. The results provide a microlevel account of the processes and operation of the sport as it develops, and indicate that traditional sport development models may not adequately represent all sports. Subcultural values reflecting what it takes to be a fighter along with a fighter's duty to the gym influence recruitment, retention, and transition strategies of athletes. Two forms of institutional work, refinement and barrier work, were identified as simultaneously aiding and hindering the development of the sport. Along with furthering institutional theory research, this study contributes to the discourse on alternative ways of sport development for MMA and emergent sports.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)438-452
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Sport Management
Volume30
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Emergent sports
  • Institutional theory
  • Institutional work
  • MMA
  • Sport development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Decision Sciences(all)
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management

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