Caged Morality: Moral Worlds, Subculture, and Stratification Among Middle-Class Cage-Fighters

Corey M. Abramson, Darren Modzelewski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Social scientists have long been concerned with how and why marginalized groups create and participate in subcultures. There has been significantly less work examining how those with access to conventional status and success participate in subcultures, often despite significant economic and social costs. The result has been lopsided theorizing that neglects much of the positive, affective, and moral appeal of subcultures at all levels of stratification. The participation of middle-class men and women in the rapidly growing world of cage-fighting speaks to this longstanding issue in the existing literature. We find these individuals participate in a sporting subculture that involves bodily, interpersonal, and professional sacrifices because they feel it gives them the ability to viscerally realize the widely shared American ideals that form the core components of their "moral world." The subculture holds particular sway over its members because they feel that its ideals, status hierarchies, and daily practices more directly embody the deeply embedded principles of middle-class morality and habitus than other elements of their lives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)143-175
Number of pages33
JournalQualitative Sociology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2011


  • Cage-fighting
  • Culture
  • Embodiment
  • Mixed martial arts
  • Morality
  • Sports
  • Subculture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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