Every sport has probably had a motion picture made about it. Boxing had ‘Rocky’. Baseball had ‘Field of Dreams’. Football had ‘Any Given Sunday’. Even professional arm wrestling had its own cinematic venture – the Sylvester Stallone opus ‘Over the Top’.
But Mixed Martial Arts, one of the oldest athletic competitions in human history, is conspicuously lacking its defining theatrical release. There’s no brawny ne’er-do-well, like Rock Balboa, to root for. It has no rising star to applaud when he finally faces the chief rival and/or reigning champion. There’s not even a good theme song to groove to.
MMA, for whatever reason, has been overlooked by Hollywood. There are always movies about underground fight clubs. But nothing centering on the now-legitimate sport of MMA. Despite the fact that Chuck Liddell can Dance with the Stars, and Tito Ortiz can appear on ‘Celebrity Apprentice’, the sport remains the ugly stepchild of cinema. This is simply wrong.
Audiences love to see the battered underdog overcome overwhelming odds and prevail in the face of almost certain defeat. MMA is rife with scruffy mutts who have stared adversity in the face and have weathered all manner of difficulties in their personal and professional lives. Devoted fans revel when their beleaguered heroes triumph, and grieve when they suffer defeat or mishap.
But somehow, Hollywood hasn’t recognized this. Actors are always being put through heir paces in filming. Even choreographed fight scenes require physical training and meticulous planning. Film-makers have on qualms about asking an actor to train in boxing, or fencing, or martial arts to make a scene believable to the audience. From my perspective, it shouldn’t be prohibitively difficult for any reasonably fit thespian to hit the local dojo and get the proper training for a staged exhibition.
Will Smith pulled it off when he portrayed Muhammad Ali. Robert de Niro survived the rigors of preparation for the film ‘Raging Bull’. I see no reason why the same couldn’t be done in a bona fide Mixed Martial Arts film. The fans deserve it. The sport deserves it.
We need a movie about a kid from a backwater town, or rundown slum who found a calling to become a cage fighter. We want the guy who sold everything he owned, aside from a few clothes and his cell phone, to train in our favorite sport. We want to see the guy who sacrificed everything resembling a ‘normal’ life to become a 21st-century gladiator. We need to see our own disheveled, scruffy, lovable misfit rise above it all and stand in the cage – whether it be in Tokyo, Las Vegas, or London – and get his shot at immortality.
We need our own Rocky Balboa.