MaMMA's Boyz

“Don’t ever get in between a mother bear and her cubs.”

So goes the wisely-worded, backcountry warning that illustrates the sheer power of the bond that exists between mother and child in nature. When it comes to an encounter with a perceived threat against its offspring, mother bears are notorious for viciously mauling whatever happens to be in the way. Simply put, mothers that deliver their offspring by live birth oftentimes feel a particular attachment to their young, whether it’s rooted in instinct, emotion, or simply to ensure the survival of one’s own genetic information as it’s replicated for future generations.

Regardless of the reasons behind such a violently defensive predisposition, does this instinctive behavior transcend the boundary that separates the wild animals living in nature from the civilized human animals dwelling in society? How do human mothers react when their own children face threats of a physical nature such as a fight? Specifically applied, how do mothers react when their sons assert that they will make careers out of regularly facing physical threats, such as those inherent in mixed martial arts?

In the interest of curing curiosity, the following singular question was asked of numerous mixed martial artists: “How did your mother react when you first told her you wanted to fight for a living?”


Oftentimes at the foundation of a mother’s defense of her young and the “fight or flight” response that goes along with the situation, fear is a very motivating force. Upon hearing their son’s plans to fight in mixed martial arts, many MMA moms admittedly felt fear—and chose fight instead of flight—as conjured images of their injured sons filled their heads and disapproval exited their mouth.


In line with the “fight or flight” response, sometimes fear can cause a protesting mother to spare herself stress and anxiety by simply avoiding the conflict caused by a decision her son has made. Having convinced themselves that if they didn’t believe it, perhaps it wouldn’t happen, here are a few mothers who had trouble accepting the call to MMA that their now-famous sons had revealed to them in the past.

Nate Quarry:

“She said, ‘I don’t approve of violence so I can’t support that.’”

Matt Brown

“My mom didn’t think I was serious. She never liked it but never disagreed either. Now that she realizes that it is a serious sport with real athletes. She loves it.”

Cole Miller

“At first, everyone thought it was a phase, and they didn’t really believe me. But when I kept winning, I got more support. When I made it to the UFC, everyone shut the fuck up.”


Finally, there are those mothers who, for one reason or another, accept their sons’ decisions to actively participate in the most intense sport on earth. Whether it is due to a gradual warming-up to the idea of physical competition throughout their growing boy’s life, a faith in their son’s ability, or even just a simple respect for the autonomy of their child, these next MMA moms handled the news pretty well.

Josh Neer

“My mom wanted me to stay in college, but I do what I want … she got over it quick.”

Stephan Bonnar

“Ya know, it never got to the point where I had to tell her. She probably had an idea when I was a little kid, when I was begging and pleading to join the wrestling team, and then with Taekwondo and then boxing and jiu-jitsu. She always knew I was competitive, so she never bothered me. She’s just happy to see that I’m passionate about something and working hard. That, to her, is more important than the danger of me being hurt or beat up. When I was growing up, I had two older brothers, so I was always getting beat up anyway, so she wasn’t too worried about MMA.”

Joe Riggs

“Well, she knew I was bred for this. My dad had me boxing and wrestling when I was like 8 years old. He groomed me to be a fighter since I was a kid. When it finally happened, she was like, ‘It’s about time!’ I was 17 years old during my first pro fight, and she had to sign the permission slips. She gets nervous sometimes, but she’s cool with it.”

Josh Thomson

“My father made me [a fighter], and until he died, I assume he was proud of what I’ve made of my life. My grandmothers didn’t like that I was fighting, but they understood where I came from and how far I’ve grown as a person, and they couldn’t be happier that I didn’t end up doing something way worse with my life.”

Phil Baroni

“What did my mom say when I told her I wanted to be a fighter? She said, ‘I knew it, you son of a bitch!’ (laughs). I’ve wanted to be a fighter my whole life.”

Kevin Randleman

“I never cared what anyone thought. I do what I want. No one pays my bills but me. No one is gonna live or die for me. When I die, I die, so I made up my mind that I was going to do whatever I wanted to do.”

It seems that whereas mothers in nature react in only one way when their offspring are threatened, it is the human mother who is capable of reacting in a variety of ways, using the power of reason over instinct. But despite these differences, one thing still holds true above all: There is a powerful connection between mother and child, and maybe no one knows it more than the MaMMA’s boyz that make up modern day MMA.

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