By Andy Sheehan

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Whether it’s boxing, wrestling or brawls in the street, it seems most men like to fight, or at least watch other men fight.

But, why is that?

A local college professor decided to find out by putting down his books and putting up his dukes.

Jonathan Gottschall is a professor of English literature at Washington & Jefferson College.

Gottschall had always been more at home in the library than the gym until one opened up across from his office.

“I just thought this was hilarious – this contrast between this incredibly refined, cultured world of the English department and then this savage world of the mixed martial arts gym,” he said.

Shedding the shackles of academia, Gottschall joined the gym in search of answers.

One intellectual — why do men fight ? The other was personal. Bookish, short and pudgy growing up, he had always harbored gnawing doubts about himself.

“I wanted to know if I was capable of doing a brave thing,” Gottschall said.

To find out, he enlisted the help of trainer and mixed martial arts fighter Mark Shrader who cut Gottschall no slack for being a professor.

“Basically, he’s the smartest guy I ever punched in the face,” Shrader said.

To up the ante, Gottschall set for himself the ultimate challenge of training for a match with a professional cage fighter.

“It’s a very [primal and] terrifying thing to be locked up in a cage with a trained killer and the only way out is to fight your way through him,” Gottschall said.

Those 13 months divided between gym and research in his office has yielded a book titled, “The Professor in the Cage.”

It’s a study of violence in men, which has some surprising revelations.

“I think most men enjoy play fighting, they enjoy competition, they enjoy testing themselves and challenging themselves. Most men do not like to fight,” Gottschall said.

Men, it seems, crave respect, higher status and more wealth than other men. However, they don’t necessarily want to fight each other to get them.
Instead of bar fights, duels and wars, we’ve established games of ritual combat like football and cage fighting.

“I came to the point of view that these kinds of ritualized contests constrain aggression and that without them, the world would be a much darker and violent place,” Gottschall said.

For himself, the research drove him to a terrifying night in Johnstown when he entered the cage with professional fighter Justin McCloskey — the result of which Gottschall would rather we not reveal.

“My opponent was 24 years old, a mixed martial arts champion. I’m a 40-year-old English professor. You can make some guesses about how it went. It didn’t go very well for me,” Gottschall said.

To get the full details on the fight, you’ll have to read the book, which you can order here.

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