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Managing Emotional Manhood: Fighting and Fostering Fear in Mixed Martial Arts

Based on two years of fieldwork and over 100 interviews, we analyze mixed martial arts fighters’ fears, how they managed them, and how they adopted intimidating personas to evoke fear in opponents. We conceptualize this process as “managing emotional manhood,” which refers to emotion management that signifies, in the dramaturgical sense, masculine selves. Our study aims to deepen our understanding of how men’s emotion work is gendered and, more generally, to bring together two lines of research: studies of gendered emotion management and studies of emotional identity work. We further propose that managing emotional manhood is a dynamic and trans-situational process that can be explored in diverse settings.