The learned halls of academia have helped populate the sport of mixed martial arts at its highest levels, with notable champions like Randy Couture, Dan Henderson and Frankie Edgar holding college degrees. But rare is the professional fighter coming from one of the world's top universities. Recently, Cornell graduate John Cholish became the first Ivy Leaguer ever to fight in the UFC, and so far, he's split his two octagon appearances.
Several colleges across the U.S. have MMA club teams, but it's still somewhat rare, which is what makes the news of the existence of the UK's Cambridge University Mixed Martial Arts society so surprising.
Founded in 1209, Cambridge is considered by several educational reviews to be the top university in the world, with notable graduates including Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Stephen Hawking. And apparently, there is a group of students at Cambridge that love MMA so much that they not only set up a team, but also have challenged their rivals at the renowned University of Oxford to an MMA rivalry.
In the U.S., this would be like the equivalent of Harvard fighting Princeton in the cage, a surreal thought, but also, admittedly, kind of cool. The UK version is also likely to stay a surreal improbability, because according to a story in the Oxford Student newspaper, there's one major problem with Cambridge calling out its longtime rival: Oxford doesn't have an MMA team.
"I am currently in the process of trying to find people from Oxford University involved in MMA," Mathias Lidgren of the Cambridge MMA club told the paper.
According to the Cambridge Student Union Societies Directory, the CUMMA club was founded in 2011 and is coached by unbeaten pro fighter Luke Barnatt, who is 3-0 after beating Lee Johnson at BAMMA 9 in March. The team currently has 15 members, according to the Cambridge News.
Oxford though, has no such club, and apparently, none on the way, as an OU sports official told the paper that they had not been approached by anyone about setting up an MMA club.
One thing we do know? Nothing is likely to spark its formation more than a good old-fashioned college rivalry. Cambridge was actually created after an academic rift at Oxford grew, and several teachers and students moved 80 miles northeast to found the institution.
Since then, the two have had an 800-year rivalry that's been represented in athletics through a popular rowing race, rugby match, cricket and even ice hockey. If the CUMMA club has their way, they'll add some good old-fashioned fisticuffs to that menu.
Ohio State vs. Michigan in football, Duke vs. North Carolina in basketball, and Cambridge vs. Oxford in MMA. We like the sound of that.