Why do some men fight?


"I can get real mad. The demons come out of me."

Former UFC featherweight and lightweight champion Conor McGregor was recently caught on CCTV camera allegedly unleashing his rage outside of the octagon.

The fighter was arrested and is currently facing multiple charges after he allegedly attacked a bus full of fighters.

His behaviour has been labelled “disgusting” though it isn't altogether unusual. There have been plenty of cases of seemingly everyday men unable or unwilling to control their rage.

Joe “Butterbean” Sweeney was 10 when he started fighting. He claims to have been in about 2,000 street fights, with two trips to jail and a 13cm scar on his neck to show for it.

Joe took up fighting after a being bullied at age 8, quickly gaining respect and earning a reputation as a "scary" street fighter in his rough neighbourhood.


So what draws men to fight?

Aaron Sell, an evolutionary psychologist, told Insight that apart from testostone; status and the need for control are the primary reasons why males fight.

“The basic relationship that we've been discussing for a long time now is that fights lead to status and that's absolutely true,” Dr Sell told Insight.

Studies on other mammals have shown that humans aren’t the only species afforded rank once they have won a fight.

“The most dangerous animal when you look at a group, a mammalian group, is the one who has low status but feels entitled to high status - that's the one who has something to prove,” Dr Sell told Insight.

“It may seem trivial but ancestrally these are really important and men really do care if they're humiliated in front of their friends.”

For Ryan Zahrai - who speaks from experience - he believes a key force compelling men to throw a punch is the desire to feel powerful.

“When you win there's a rush, your body's shaking with adrenaline, especially after the fight and the guy's dropped, you're still shaking and you love that feeling, ” Ryan told Insight.

“That’s what you go back to, there's a chemical reaction. You know it's something that you get addicted to.”

Violence as a coping mechanism

After his mother’s suicide and his brother’s death, Joe’s urge to fight escalated and he began searching for opponents.

“I went out and started giving a lot of people a good flogging … Like I'd actually go to their houses,” Joe told Insight.

“I can get real mad. The demons come out of me,” he said on the moment before a fight begins.

While his days of lawless street fights are behind him, he has since joined a travelling boxing tent as an outlet and said it has taught him self-control: “I don’t get angry anymore.”

Chris “The Savage” Indich is another street fighter who now funnels his aggression into regulated MMA fighting.

“I was aggressive, you know. I had a few schoolyard fights, getting a little bit older had a few bar fights,” Chris told Insight.

“It's kind of how I got my fight name, "The Savage" … I think I just had a lot of anger and I don't think that I ever really had an outlet for the anger.”

Neurologist Ron Granot, who often sees head injuries at the hands of violence, thinks the return to fighting comes down to the lack of alternative outlets available for men to cope with their problems.

“Instead of having other opportunities, education opportunities you know, from counselling, relaxation, exercises, all these other alternatives… I think part of the reason is they are not there.”