The past couple of decades have been really good for fans of mixed martial arts. The sport has progressed from small arenas in remote locations far from the prying eyes of local authorities, to brand name sponsors and an ever-growing legion of fans.
The complexity of MMA as it blends various martial arts together makes it a hit with those who appreciate combat sports, while the many colorful personalities draw in the casuals fans.
MMA has also enjoyed a lot of success on the big screen, sharing stories many in the martial arts community can easily relate to. While not every MMA movie is worth watching, here are five of the best MMA movies every fan needs to watch:
This is a gripping story that takes the viewer inside the world of mixed martial arts. It features two brothers who share a passion for the sport and their path towards an inevitable showdown. Directed by Gavin O’Connor, this movie provides a good mix of mixed martial arts action and drama.
The differences between the two siblings this story revolves around, and the actions they take in order to keep their MMA dreams alive is one of the things that make this movie so interesting. On the one hand, Brendan, the older brother, is a former fighter who now works as a physics teacher. He’s your average Joe who is struggling to make ends meet. Brendan exudes the qualities you would expect to find in a true martial artist. He’s disciplined, strong-willed, respectful, and thoughtful. He has a technique beats strength approach to mixed martial arts.
On the other hand is the protagonist, Tommy. He’s a grunt who’s just returned home from Iraq, who moves back to his hometown after a 14-year absence. Tommy is filled with rage, and most of it is aimed at his father and brother who stayed behind while he moved away with his mother, who was a victim of domestic abuse.
Tommy is a physically-imposing specimen who forces his will on opponents. He’s a sprawl and brawl type of fighter with a strong emphasis on the ‘brawl’ part. As the movie goes on, the viewer begins to understand why Tommy is the way he is, making it difficult for you to decide which brother to root for.
Warrior is a movie that even those who aren’t into MMA will enjoy.
Redbelt is an entertaining MMA drama that captures the true essence of martial arts. The story revolves around the lead character Mike Terry – who is a world class Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu master who was committed to staying away from professional MMA, and instead opted for a simpler lifestyle running a BJJ dojo, teaching students from all walks of life.
Unfortunately for Terry, a diabolical plot forces him to step into the world of prizefighting for the first time in order to repay a debt and redeem himself.
3) The Hammer
Now, here’s an MMA movie you can enjoy with your entire family. It’s based on the life of retired UFC fighter Matt Hamill who inspired many with his performance on the third season of “The Ultimate Fighter” reality TV series and his subsequent career.
The Hammer features the struggles Hamill went through as a deaf child and his journey to winning an NCAA championship as a wrestler. He was the first deaf contestant to complete this feat, and his subsequent success in the UFC endeared him to many MMA fans.
The Hammer is a lot more than just an MMA movie. It’s a movie that tells the story of one of the most interesting people the mixed martial arts community has ever seen.
This is an in-depth documentary that takes you deep inside the world of mixed martial arts. It features MMA prospects from Louisiana looking to make their way to the big show. It takes you behind the scenes and introduces you to the people behind the stars: parents, spouses, and children.
It takes you through their training sessions, dealing with promoters and other harsh realities of MMA. Fightville wasn’t made for casual fans, but rather the hardcore followers and those who are contemplating careers as professional mixed martial arts fighters. If you’re wondering what the day-to-day lives of professional MMA fighters look like, watch Fightville and take notes.
Something else that stands out when you watch Fightville is the fact the directors don’t try to sugarcoat the harsh realities of MMA. You get to the watch the intense sacrifices these fighters make while juggling 9-5 jobs like everyone else.
The interviews with family members are also interesting as they struggle to come to terms with the career choices their loved ones have made.
Choke is a mixed martial arts documentary that takes you behind the scenes of Pride Fighting Championship – one of the major promotions during MMA’s early days. The movie follows three fighters as they compete in the 1995 tournament.
The main focus of the documentary was Rickson Gracie and the rest of the Gracie family as they head to Japan to compete in what was then still a relatively new sport. It shows a lot of Rickson’s training rituals, warmup routines, and fighting philosophies. It also gives you an in-depth look at all the unforeseen distractions that can come up minutes before a fight, like Rickson having to run to the bathroom moments before walking into the ring.
It’s certainly a must-see for anyone who is interested in pursuing a professional MMA career.
This documentary also follows two other fighters Koichiro Kimura and Todd “Hollywood” Hays. Hays was a pit fighter who crossed over into MMA, while Kimura was a young, wide-eyed fighter who was getting his first taste of top-level competition. This movie gives you a little bit of everything. Talking, drama, and lots of action.
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