MMA Club with Cullan Hamilton
By Jared Fairfield, Staff Writer
The Ancient Greek philosopher Plato was a wrestler. He competed in the Isthmian games, which is comparable to the modern-day Olympics, and it’s thought that in between his lectures at the original Academy, he practiced sparring in the gymnasium. All of this is interesting trivia, but there might be something to consider in the role of athleticism in academia, and maybe even more specifically combat sports. And beyond academia and athletics in and of themselves, combat sports may spill over into a person’s life in profoundly positive ways.
I spoke to Cullan Hamilton, a sophomore at SMCC with a major in Education, who started a mixed martial arts (MMA) club that takes place on the USM Portland campus. Every Thursday morning, a group gathers at 7:00am to practice MMA outside on the Bean Green, the lawn right in front of the McGoldrick Center. Cullan is enthusiastic about wanting all types of people to join, purposefully creating the club as an entry point for people who may not be comfortable to walk into a gym with no experience: “I just want to emphasize that you don’t have to be a stereotypical jock to get into this sort of thing. You don’t even have to be remotely athletic,” he told me, and added, “When I got into this, I was definitely not athletic at all. I was like 85 pounds”. Cullan told me that “A lot of fighters were complete nerds when they started”.
I asked Cullan if he thought that his experience with MMA spilled over into other aspects of his life. Cullan said that the first answer that comes off the top of his head is confidence. “I was like a really shy high school kid,” he said. “I got into combat sports and that changed.” He also spoke about the unique and deep friendships that arise in MMA: “I think you have a unique bond with someone when you can punch them in the face and then hang out afterwards and you’re all good.” This was a very interesting idea to me; although building deeper friendships through controlled combat sounds strange on paper, it also makes a lot of sense too. It’s hard to imagine a friendship remaining on a shallow surface level when you engage with them in such a primal way.
Another thing Cullan spoke about was being humbled by engaging in MMA: “If there’s one thing you get taught in your early martial arts career, it’s that ego is not going to get you anywhere and that you suck, and that kind of humbles you.” Cullan said that he learned what his dad had always told him, which was that “There will always be someone tougher than you.” However, despite the humbling effect that MMA has, it also comes with an increased sense of potential growth within the sport: “There’s such a long road ahead, even for when you make it into the professional leagues. It’s kind of daunting, but also really cool to think about that I have the potential to get that much stronger”.
I said to Cullan in the interview that I was interested enough to consider joining, if only to experience some of the spillover effects that he described. It seems likely that anyone could benefit from engaging with MMA, even if you have no prior experience with athletics of any kind. Beyond merely getting a degree, the function and purpose of being in academia is to learn, to grow, and to become an overall more enriched and virtuous person. Based on what Cullan told me, it seems like adding MMA as a supplement to other facets of education would only serve to deepen a person’s engagement in the world. Again, Cullan emphasized multiple times that the invitation is open to all, experienced or not. Deeper friendships, more confidence, and humility are all desirable and attractive in a person, and this might just be the thing that can help you gain these qualities. You can reach Cullan at [email protected] if you are interested in participating.