5 MMA-themed movies you need to see
While the sport of MMA has been around for over two decades now – emerging initially as a spectacle in 1993 with the advent of the first UFC show and then slowly developing into a true sport over the following years – it only truly broke into the mainstream when the first season of The Ultimate Fighter took off in 2005.
Suddenly, MMA was everywhere you looked and fighters like Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture became bonafide celebrities. And naturally, one of the telling points that the sport had truly entered into the public conscience was the release of various movies about – or at least heavily involving – MMA soon after.
Here are 5 MMA-based movies that any fan of the sport needs to see.
#1 Never Back Down (2008)
It took three years to give or take after the beginning of the TUF boom for the first real MMA-based movie to arrive, but when it did, it came with quite a bang.
2008’s Never Back Down was essentially a re-telling of 1984’s classic The Karate Kid, just with an updated setting and with MMA to replace the karate.
The movie tells the story of teenager Jake Tyler (Sean Faris), who, along with his mother and younger brother, has been uprooted from Iowa to California.
Upon arriving Jake is soon greeted by a love interest, Baja Miller (Amber Heard) and a new rival – high school bully Ryan McCarthy (Cam Gigandet), who happens to be the champion of a local underground MMA promotion known as ‘The Beatdown’.
Well, you can guess the rest. Jake takes a beating from Ryan in the opening third of the movie before finding his way into a legitimate MMA school ran by modern-day Mr Miyagi Jean Roqua (Djimon Hounsou), a Brazilian Vale Tudo veteran with some secrets of his own. And you’ve probably never watched a movie in your life if you can’t work out that in the end, Jake beats the villain, wins the girl and earns the respect of everyone – including Ryan himself.
Sure, Never Back Down is chock-full of cheesy lines (particularly from Gigandet’s Ryan), a bunch of plot holes (it’s never really explained why high school kids are able to fight in an underground MMA promotion) and it’s not as good as The Karate Kid, but for the most part it’s a lot of fun.
And the fight scenes, for the most part, are pretty solid – one even went viral on Youtube prior to the movie being released as if it were a clip from a real MMA show – meaning it’s worth a watch for any MMA fan. Just try not to think too deeply!