Imagine one of your professors having the same passion as Georges St. Pierre or Anderson Silva, two vicious competitors in the world of Ultimate Fighting.
Santa Monica history professor Daniele Bolelli pursues a similar lifestyle, sporting an alter ego that juxtaposes his composed classroom demeanor. Training in mixed martial arts, or MMA, Bolelli uses a combination of kickboxing, wrestling, and grappling to train in his spare time when he's not grading papers.
Bolelli comes from a family with Mediterranean origins and initially started to practice MMA in Italy when he was seventeen.
Since then, Bolelli has competed in various professional fights when time allows him to train enough for competitions. "I did a couple of pro-fights when I got back to Italy for awhile because the competition was a little easier and I didn't have to train all the time," he said. He won his first pro MMA match on Dec. 14, 2008 in Milan, Italy.
Bolelli started out by learning an alternate approach to martial arts before transitioning straight into fighting.
"I started with a philosophical aspect, which is more mellow, and the opposite of what people normally do," said Bolelli. "Then I switched to martial arts as a combat sport, mixed martial arts specifically."
Describing himself as a sensitive, relatively calm man who avoids confrontations and conflicts, Bolelli explained that he started to train in martial arts to enlarge his personality, seeking to adopt an opposite side.
"Martial arts forces you to delete your fears, makes you more assertive and balanced," he said.
As part of his MMA lifestyle, Bolelli also taught martial arts at the recreation department of UCLA for 6 years before devoting his time to teach history. He still trains four times a week, with workouts including boxing, jujitsu, running, and regular gym visits. "A little bit of everything to make sure I don't lose the level," said Bolelli.
"What I like about martial arts is that it keeps me from becoming too theoretical in my ways of teaching, and it keeps me down to earth," said Bolelli. "When I talk about certain topics, I try to keep it at a level of reality that people can relate to immediately without needing a deep understanding."
In addition, Bolelli is the author of the novel "On the Warrior's Path," a book based on philosophy and MMA.
"Every chapter in the book begins with martial arts practice," said Bolelli in an interview with Blue Snake Books, a martial arts blog. "But ultimately takes us to face the essential issues shaping who we are."