All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Peter Verbeek

Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name by School

Master of Arts (MA) College of Arts and Sciences


This thesis investigates the manifestation of behavioral peace within the diverse subcultures of mixed martial arts (MMA) gyms, drawing from the operational definition provided by peace ethology, which encompasses more than just the absence of violence. Peace ethology investigates how behavioral peace is achieved through mutual interests, tolerance, helping, sharing, and the avoidance of aggressive confrontation. This thesis explores how behavioral peace manifests in environments characterized by controlled violence and vulnerability, focusing on three MMA gyms in Alabama. Employing an ethnographic and ethological framework, the methodology blends autoethnography with participant observations and semi-structured interviews to comprehend the cultural, environmental, and motivational influences on behavioral processes within MMA gym contexts. Examining the manifestation of behavioral peace in MMA communities, this thesis presents these communities as agents of peacebuilding. This understanding provides a unique perspective on MMA violence, suggesting that the formation and cohesion of these communities symbolize a resistance against the normalized and oppressive violence of neoliberal power structures embedded in Western society. These communities promote an alternative human experience and the cultivation of authentic community bonds. The process of peacebuilding unfolds through the co-construction of communities that embody behavioral peace via a metaphorical fission-fusion social structure, fostering cohesion through close-contact bonding, a shared identity, mutually beneficial relationships, and reciprocal interests.

Available for download on Tuesday, May 05, 2026