Industries & Festivals, Talks & Interviews — August 25, 2012 at 9:43 pm

The “MMA movies”: opinions, budgets and predictions (exclusive)

kevin james here comes the boomColumbia Pictures and Sony Pictures are busy producing and distributing a lot of movies year after year.

This year, in particular, among those movies is “Here Comes the Boom”, a mixed martial arts drama about a high school biology teacher who trains to become a successful mixed-martial arts fighter in an effort to raise money for his cash-strapped school.

Comedian Kevin James, the always beautiful Salma Hayek and a real-life MMA fighter Bas Rutten are the leads, which could promise the film some commercial success.

The film’s budget has been kept secret, yet some online media outlets claim it is some $10 million.

The story of the film is as cliche as it could be – you’ve seen it before, even if you’re not a martial arts films fan. So, why do we still keep watching these type of films?


“I don’t attribute the glut of MMA movies to a couple of things: the general growth of the sport itself, which naturally makes it more appealing and marketable for filmmakers, and to the built-in narrative conflict inherent in a story/film about combat or combat sports,” Sports Illustrated MMA columnist Jeff Wagenheim told BZFilm.

“From Bruce Lee to Stallone’s Rocky to even Hoosiers – people enjoy stories about two people or teams going head to head,” Wagenheim explained.

MMA insider and examiner Daniel Sotelo believes that the interest in MMA has been growing rapidly due to shows like “The Ultimate Fighter” and the “UFC”.

“I think that with combat sports like Boxing starting to fade due to lack of star power, we will continue to see MMA grow,” Sotelo told BZFilm.”

Most would agree that if compared to WWE superstars and former kickboxing movies stars, the MMA fighters are not best of actors, yet there is a reason they continue appearing in movies.

Daniel Sotelo says MMA fighters should take opportunities that present themselves.

“It is well known that a lot of MMA fighters out of the UFC are not paid the most, and any opportunity that may come from fighting should be considered.”

In one of our previous articles about “Kickboxing movies being better than today’s “MMA movies“, we’ve also touched upon the fact that the MMA movies have replaced the martial arts movies of the past.

Director of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s cult movie “KickBoxer”, David Worth disagrees with this.

“I do not believe that the MMA movies have replaced Martial Arts, simply because the MMA movies have not presented a star with the charisma of Bruce Lee or Jean-Claude Van Damme,” Worth told BZFilm.

“Nobody knows for how long MMA movies will be around. I did not know that when we made Bloodsport and Kickboxer, they would keep going & going & going…like the Energizer Bunny,” Worth noted.

Despite the fact that there are lots of MMA movies being released, we just might get ourselves another “Bloodsport” movie, this time, maybe without Van Damme.

The action star has been speaking publicly, expressing his interest in the remake of “Bloodsport”, yet it seems like the producers at this point are not interested in negotiating with Van Damme.

“Ask yourself, why they are remaking Bloodsport, if the MMA has taken over,” David Worth said, who has been the director of photography on the original 1988 film.

Former kickboxing champion, actor, and documentary filmmaker, Ian Jacklin believes MMA is so big that there’s very little chance of “MMA movies” die anytime soon.

“I’ve only seen a couple of movies with MMA, but the ones I saw were made real well, obviously there were good budgets to work with,” Jacklin told BZFilm. “MMA is so big now combined with good budgets I don’t see them dying out. It is now like baseball, football and even better than boxing. So it may slow in pace after the world gets used to this new hybrid of a sport but it will never die.”


If we take a look at the MMA movies that were shot with big budgets, most of them did not have real MMA fighters or martial artists in them.

In 2008, Sean Faris and Djimon Hounsou starred in “Never Back Down”, a $20 million mixed martial arts drama, that barely made some $24 million at the box office in the USA. Worldwide gross totalled just over $41 million. While the film was received better then its sequel (Never Back Down 2, $3 million budget), it featured no real martial artists.

In 2011, “Warrior” was made with Tom Hardy, Nick Nolte and Joel Edgerton. The film had a $25 million budget, and got nominated for an Oscar (Nolte, best supporting actor). At the box office the film earned only $23 million, according to Box Office Mojo.

Some of the better known MMA movies had relatively small budgets, compared to Hollywood blockbusters. Not only that, but they also featured real martial artists that the fans know and respect.

Isaac Florentine, made two mixed martial arts movies, “Undisputed 2” and “Undisputed 3”, for a combined budget of 8 million, with the leading martial artists like Scott Adkins, Michael Jai White and Marko Zaror.

Another interesting example would be “Blizhniy Boy – The Ultimate Fighter”, a rather mediocre $4 million Kazakhstan-Russia-US mixed martial arts film with such stars as Cung Le, Bolo Yeung, Eric Roberts, Gary Busey, David Carradine, Oleg Taktarov and Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa.

“Blood and Bone” made for only $3,700 million featured such martial artists as Michael Jai White, Bob Sapp, Maurice Smith, Matt Mullins, Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson and Ron Yuan. The film was very well received among the martial arts movie fans.

Other interesting low-budget MMA movies include “Red Canvas” (2009, $3 million), The Philly Kid (2012, $5 million), Death Warrior (2009, $3 million).

To sum it all up, having $4-10 million budget is more than just enough to get a great cast of martial artists, even mixing them with those of 90s era kickboxing movies and today’s MMA, and making a good memorable martial arts movie.

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