The world of mixed martial arts, particularly the UFC, is often associated with physical prowess and fighting skills.
However, many fighters in the UFC have also excelled academically, holding college degrees in various fields.
This article highlights 26 UFC fighters who have combined their athletic careers with higher education, showcasing that success in the Octagon can go hand-in-hand with academic achievements.
UFC Fighters With College Degrees
In alphabetical order, here are 26 UFC fighters with college degrees or higher education.
- 1. Al Iaquinta – Associate Degree
- 2. Ben Askren – Sociology
- 3. Brian Stann – Economics
- 4. Carla Esparza – Psychology
- 5. Chael Sonnen – Sociology
- 6. Dominick Reyes – Information Systems
- 7. Forrest Griffin – Political Science
- 8. Frankie Edgar – Political Science
- 9. Georges St-Pierre – Kinesiology
- 10. Jan Blachowicz – Civil Engineering
- 11. Jeff Monson – Psychology
- 12. Joe Lauzon – Computer Science
- 13. Jon Fitch – Physical Education
- 14. Justin Gaethje – Social Services
- 15. Lyoto Machida – Physical Education
- 16. Randy Couture – Foreign Language and Literature
- 17. Rashad Evans – Psychology
- 18. Rich Franklin – Mathematics and Education
- 19. Roxanne Modafferi – Japanese Language and Literature
- 20. Sara McMann – Theater and Mental Health Counseling
- 21. Shane Carwin – Mechanical Engineering and Environmental Technology
- 22. Stipe Miocic – Marketing and Communications
- 23. Takeya Mizugaki – Electrical Engineering
- 24. Tecia Torres – Criminal Justice and Sociology
- 25. Terry Martin – Psychology
- 26. Tor Troeng – Engineering Physics
1. Al Iaquinta – Associate Degree
Al Iaquinta earned his associate degree from Nassau Community College, where he also participated in wrestling. He then managed to successfully juggle a career as a real estate agent alongside his fighting career in the UFC.
Since retiring from MMA in 2021, he has focused full-time on his real estate company, Iaquinta Real Estate.
Iaquinta gained prominence in the UFC, particularly noted for his fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov for the lightweight title, which he accepted on short notice.
His ability to balance a demanding career in real estate with the rigors of being a professional fighter is a testament to his versatility and work ethic.
2. Ben Askren – Sociology
Ben Askren, a graduate of the University of Missouri with a degree in Sociology, is a former Bellator and ONE Championship champion renowned for his exceptional wrestling skills and unique personality in the MMA world.
Askren’s transition to the UFC marked a significant phase in his career, highlighted by notable fights against Robbie Lawler and Jorge Masvidal.
3. Brian Stann – Economics
Brian Stann holds a degree in Economics from the United States Naval Academy. He’s a former WEC Light Heavyweight Champion and a respected figure for his service as a Marine Corps officer.
In the UFC, Stann had a commendable career, known for his striking skills and leadership qualities. He went on to become a UFC commentator in 2013 until 2017.
4. Carla Esparza – Psychology
Carla Esparza, who earned her psychology degree from California State University, Fullerton, is a former UFC Strawweight Champion and the first woman to hold the title in the division.
Her academic background in psychology complements her strategic approach in the Octagon, where she’s known for her exceptional wrestling skills.
5. Chael Sonnen – Sociology
Chael Sonnen is a graduate of the University of Oregon with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and is known as much for his articulate trash-talking and charismatic personality as for his fighting skills.
A former UFC star, Sonnen’s career in MMA was marked by notable rivalries and title fights. His academic background in sociology perhaps contributed to his deep understanding of psychological warfare and promotion in the sport.
6. Dominick Reyes – Information Systems
Dominick Reyes earned a Bachelor’s degree in Information Systems from Stony Brook University. He’s a former title challenger in the UFC’s light heavyweight division, with many believing he won the fight against Jon Jones.
Known for his technical skills and power, Reyes has balanced a career as a professional fighter with working as an IT support technician at a high school in California.
7. Forrest Griffin – Political Science
Forrest Griffin, a graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Georgia, is a former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion and a Hall of Famer.
Griffin’s journey in the UFC is marked by legendary fights, including his iconic bout with Stephan Bonnar, which is credited with bringing MMA into the mainstream.
His degree in political science is one of the reasons he was able to continue working with the UFC after his retirement. He currently works as Vice President of Athlete Development at the UFC Performance Institute in Las Vegas.
8. Frankie Edgar – Political Science
Frankie Edgar, who holds a degree in Political Science from Clarion University of Pennsylvania, is a former UFC Lightweight Champion and a multiple-time featherweight title challenger.
Edgar’s remarkable career in the UFC is characterized by his resilience, technical prowess, and versatility inside the Octagon.
9. Georges St-Pierre – Kinesiology
Georges St-Pierre, revered as one of the greatest mixed martial artists of all time, graduated from the Université of Quebec in Montreal with a degree in Kinesiology (the study of movement).
A former two-division UFC champion, St-Pierre’s intellectual approach to training and fighting, combined with his athletic prowess, has made him a legend in the sport.
His understanding of the human body and its mechanics gained through his kinesiology studies, played a significant role in his ability to outsmart and outperform opponents.
10. Jan Blachowicz – Civil Engineering
Jan Blachowicz graduated in civil engineering but has never revealed from which University. Before starting his MMA career and eventually becoming the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, Blachowicz worked as a bouncer.
His educational background in civil engineering is a unique aspect of his profile, showcasing that fighters often have multifaceted interests and skills beyond the octagon.
Jan’s skill and love for fighting meant he never had to use his degree to land a job.
11. Jeff Monson – Psychology
Jeff Monson earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Illinois and a graduate degree from the University of Minnesota Duluth.
Before fully committing to his MMA career, Monson worked as a child and family psychologist. His academic background in psychology and his work as a mental health specialist add an interesting dimension to his persona as a fighter.
Monson’s career in MMA is marked by his success in grappling championships and his fights in various top-tier organizations.
12. Joe Lauzon – Computer Science
Joe Lauzon, a graduate of Wentworth Institute of Technology with a Bachelor’s degree in computer science, is a UFC veteran known for his exciting fighting style and numerous “Fight of the Night” bonuses (15).
Before focusing full-time on MMA, Lauzon worked as a network administrator, and his background in computer science and his interest in technology is unique in the MMA world.
13. Jon Fitch – Physical Education
Jon Fitch holds a degree in physical education from Purdue University. He’s a former UFC welterweight contender known for his wrestling-based fighting style. Fitch’s career in the UFC was marked by his technical skills and determination.
His educational background in physical education likely contributed to his understanding of athletic training and performance, aiding his career as a professional fighter.
Fitch’s journey in the UFC showcases the blend of academic knowledge and athletic skill in the realm of professional sports.
14. Justin Gaethje – Social Services
Justin Gaethje, a graduate with a bachelor’s degree in social services from the University of Northern Colorado, is known for his aggressive fighting style and knockout power in the UFC’s lightweight division.
Now the BMF title holder after knocking out Dustin Poirier, Gaethje’s transition from a successful collegiate wrestling background to a standout MMA career is a testament to his athletic versatility.
His degree in social services adds depth to his profile, indicating a commitment to broader societal issues beyond his fighting career.
15. Lyoto Machida – Physical Education
Lyoto Machida, a graduate of Mackenzie Presbyterian University in Brazil with a degree in Physical Education, is renowned for his unique karate-based fighting style in the UFC.
A former Light Heavyweight Champion, Machida’s approach to MMA is deeply influenced by his martial arts background and his academic understanding of physical education.
His ability to blend traditional martial arts techniques with modern MMA strategies has made him a standout and beloved fighter in the sport.
16. Randy Couture – Foreign Language and Literature
Randy Couture holds a bachelor’s degree in Foreign Language and Literature from Oklahoma State University.
He’s a legendary figure in the UFC for becoming a two-division champion, six-time UFC champion, and UFC Hall of Famer.
Couture’s career is marked by his exceptional wrestling skills and dirty boxing in the clinch. His academic pursuits, combined with his military background, have contributed to his reputation as a well-rounded and intelligent fighter.
17. Rashad Evans – Psychology
Rashad Evans, a graduate with a degree in Psychology from Michigan State University, is a former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion known for his athleticism and tactical approach in the Octagon.
Evans’ understanding of psychology may have played a role in his ability to strategize and mentally prepare for fights, contributing to his success in the UFC.
He’s well-known for having a feud with Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson, where the two featured as coaches on The Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights. Evans went on to win the show with Roy Nelson and defeat Jackson in their fight.
18. Rich Franklin – Mathematics and Education
Rich Franklin, who earned a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and a Master’s degree in Education from the University of Cincinnati, is a former UFC Middleweight Champion and former high school mathematics teacher.
Franklin’s transition from teaching to becoming one of the top fighters in the UFC is a remarkable story of pursuing passion while having a solid educational foundation.
His analytical skills, honed through his studies in mathematics, played a significant role in his strategic approach to fighting. He’s one of the only fighters to use their education to land a job before transitioning to MMA.
19. Roxanne Modafferi – Japanese Language and Literature
Roxanne Modafferi, a holder of a Bachelor’s degree in Japanese Language and Literature, is a veteran UFC fighter known for her technical skills and sportsmanship.
Before her MMA career, Modafferi taught English as a second language in Japan during her studies, reflecting her interest in language and culture.
20. Sara McMann – Theater and Mental Health Counseling
Sara McMann, an Olympic silver medalist in wrestling, holds a Bachelor’s degree in Theater from Lock Haven University and a Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling from Gardner-Webb University.
Here Masters in Mental Health has likely been useful throughout her UFC and MMA career, in a sport where mental health issues are commonplace.
McMann, who competed in the UFC’s women’s bantamweight division, has since moved on to compete in Bellator.
21. Shane Carwin – Mechanical Engineering and Environmental Technology
Shane Carwin is a former Interim UFC Heavyweight Champion who holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Colorado School of Mines and a bachelor’s degree in environmental technology from Western State College.
Known for his formidable power and knockout ability, Carwin balanced his MMA career with a job as a construction manager.
His educational background in engineering and environmental technology demonstrates his ability to manage a demanding professional career alongside his achievements in the UFC and is a source of inspiration for aspiring MMA fighters.
22. Stipe Miocic – Marketing and Communications
Stipe Miocic, a two-time UFC Heavyweight Champion considered one of the greats, graduated with a degree in marketing and communications from Cleveland State University.
In addition to his successful MMA career, Miocic serves as a part-time firefighter and paramedic, showcasing his commitment to serving his community.
His academic background in marketing and communications, coupled with his athletic achievements and community service, paints a picture of a well-rounded individual who excels in multiple areas of life.
23. Takeya Mizugaki – Electrical Engineering
Takeya Mizugaki, a Japanese MMA fighter who competed as a bantamweight in the UFC, earned a B.A. and an M.A. in Electrical Engineering from Kanto Gakuin University in Yokohama, Japan.
Despite his academic achievements, Mizugaki chose to pursue a career in MMA, where he became one of the best Japanese fighters in the UFC.
His journey reflects the decision to follow his passion for fighting, balancing it with a solid educational foundation that he could fall back on after his retirement in 2019.
24. Tecia Torres – Criminal Justice and Sociology
Tecia Torres is a UFC strawweight fighter who graduated in 2010 with a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice and Sociology from Florida Atlantic University. She then completed a master’s degree in Criminology from the same college in 2017.
Torres’ academic achievements, alongside her career in the UFC’s strawweight division, demonstrate her dedication to both intellectual and athletic pursuits.
25. Terry Martin – Psychology
Terry Martin, a former UFC fighter who competed in three different weight classes, has an impressive academic background.
After a life-changing incident at the age of 15, Martin decided to turn his life around and focus on education.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and went on to receive a master’s degree in Clinical Psychology. Martin is also working towards a Ph.D.
His journey is particularly inspiring as he used his MMA fame until his retirement in 2017 to influence young people to stay in school and emphasize the importance of education.
26. Tor Troeng – Engineering Physics
Tor Troeng, a retired Swedish MMA fighter, is highly educated, holding a master’s degree in Engineering Physics from the University of Umeå.
In addition to his academic achievements, Troeng made his presence known in The Ultimate Fighter and had a stint in the UFC.
After retiring from MMA, he continued to work in academia as a project assistant in mathematics and statistics at the University of Umeå, his alma mater.
Troeng also plays a role in promoting MMA in Sweden, running the Swedish MMA organization Battle of Botnia.
His transition from a fighter to an academic and promoter in the sport exemplifies the diverse career paths that educated athletes can pursue.