Over the past few decades, MMA fights have risen from the underground into a legitimate sport, spawning countless pay-per-view events, growing globally. Two fighters in an octagon ring is considered by many to be the closest sport we have to a refined street brawl. Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has made a huge contribution in promoting the MMA into a great sport it is. As MMA becomes more entrenched in our sports culture, we can expect to see even more good MMA fight movies making their way into our theatres and of course straight to the DVD.
1) The Warrior
Starring Tom Hardy (Mad Max: Fury Road, Legend, The Revenant, Bronson), Joel Edgerton (Black Mass, Midnight Special, Exodus: Gods and Kings, Zero Dark Trinity), and Nick Nolte (The Thin Red Line, Hotel Rwanda, Tropic Thunder), the film pits two brothers against each other in a MMA tournament called “Sparta” for money.
Although the film has that Rocky effect where a lot of fighters relentlessly take punches to the face without collapsing to the ground, wrestling and submission attempts move quicker than professionals that have done it for years, the film has the most realistic fight scenes compared to anything that has come out.
With the compelling story line, solid acting, and great fight scenes – Warrior is one of the rare MMA-based films that should be seen. Nolte was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. You’ll also see Kurt Angle, Erik Apple, Nate Marquardt, Anthony Johnson and Roan Carneiro making cameos as other MMA fighters.
2) Never Back Down
Possibly the first Karate Kid of MMA flicks, the movie stars Sean Faris as Jake Tyler, a troubled kid in a new city. As Jake tries to fit into his new surroundings, he attends a party that he’s invited to and gets into a fight with the “MMA champion” of the new school he attends. Although he gets beat up in the fight, he is eventually introduced to the sport of Mixed Martial Arts by a fellow classmate. He is then eventually trained by Djimon Hounsou’s character Jean Roqua.
Overall, the film was one of the first MMA-inspired films that had the kind of budget to make it look like it wasn’t shot with a camcorder or an iPhone. The cinematography was solid and the fight scenes much more realistically choreographed compared to the many martial arts films at the time.
3) Undisputed II: Last Man Standing
Undisputed II: Last Man Standing is a 2006 direct-to-video martial arts film and is the sequel to the 2002 boxing film Undisputed. The film stars Michael Jai White, Scott Adkins, Eli Danker and Ben Cross, and was directed by Isaac Florentine. White portrays ex-boxer George “Iceman” Chambers, a role originally played by Ving Rhames in the first film. The film is followed by the 2010 sequel Undisputed III: Redemption, which continues the story of Russian prison.