Out of the estimated 1% of the American population with Antisocial Personality Disorder (the most extreme of whom could be psychopathic individuals), how many of them have made a career (or are currently making one) in culturally accepted forms of fighting and aggression, such as boxing or MMA? Here it is important not to confuse serial killers with psychopaths (it’s estimated that in the US there are about 8 serial killers operating at one time), and 1% of the American population is 313,000, and so it’s quite a different question to ask if serial killers become boxers (they probably don’t).

In much of the literature on aggression there tends to be two types of aggressive male; those who are reactively aggressive, and those who are instrumentally aggressive. Numerous boxers, including Michael Bentt, have said recently (commenting upon the recent Haye/Chisora/Klitschko debacle) that boxers are naturally aggressive, and if this is the case then those two categories of aggressiveness are probably also present among fighters.

There are both psychological and physiological differences between reactive and instrumental aggression. Reactive aggression frequently involves losing your cool in the face of a perceived harmful stimulus, whereas instrumental aggression involves carefully planning how to use aggressive behavior to achieve a goal. Reactive aggression is associated with a rapid rise in heart rate and a diminishing capacity for logical thought, whereas those with a tendency for instrumental aggression are able to keep a low heart rate when faced with the kinds of shocking/harmful stimuli that would cause the rest of us to lose control.

Psychopaths are renowned for instrumental aggression and ALL fighters have to utilize instrumental aggression in order to win (they have to plan/scheme/adapt in their fighting style to best their opponent and receive all of the benefits and rewards that come with winning). Of course a crucial difference here is that psychopaths also have no remorse or guilt, and I can imagine the kinds of discipline and rule following that accompanies fighting would only serve to frustrate a psychopath, hindering their quest for extreme stimulation and power. So would psychopaths fight or not?

On the one hand, it is not hard to imagine why a psychopathic individual would turn to professional fighting. Firstly, they get to hurt people, and this could be accompanied by extreme exhilaration (the basic reward circuitry in psychopaths is often underdeveloped and poorly functioning. It could be argued that because of this psychopaths often turn to alcohol and other drugs, as well as violence to feel exhilaration). Secondly, provided they were good at it, they could obtain a high social status (powerful people who could be manipulated and controlled), wealth, and access to gorgeous women (who could be manipulated and controlled).

On the other hand, they could lose and end up with none of that. Psychopaths, particularly unsuccessful psychopaths (those deemed to have lower neurological integrity in the frontal lobe and tend to end up in prison more than their successful counterparts), are notoriously bad at making risky decisions; this could support the notion of unsuccessful psychopaths becoming fighters. It would be much easier for a psychopath to rely on their charm to manipulate in an innocuous environment to gain control and fulfill their egoistic goals than to subject their bodies to tremendous punishment in a ring with a lot less certainty of success. Psychopaths who do or would fight, would in all likelihood be unsuccessful psychopaths, and could be identified by a number of factors: One, have they been involved in domestic abuse? Two, have they shown any remorse concerning said domestic abuse? Three, do they also assault people they are not familiar with/have no relationship with? Four, is their ego ridiculously high, even for a fighter?

Ring any bells?