We can all say that we have seen at least once on TV a film about fighting or martial arts, and we must admit that many of these have excited and often inspired us to start practising one of these disciplines. MMA are the most recent discipline of film products, but let’s see how films have made history and introduced to the general public the spectacular actions and effectiveness of combat and martial discipline, combined with fictionalized stories often heroic, or telling stories of an ancient past made of honour and personal glory.
A leap into the past to understand a little bit the evolution of these films and their origin takes us to China in the 1920’s where the first silent films, in black and white, told stories of kung fu the “Wuxia” or “Martial heroes” already existing in 2000 B.C. famous among the popular narratives, poems and theatrical interpretations. For sure we have a title in 1925 in Japan “Orochi” which tells the story of a Samurai, but in China already in 1926 we have a documented but lost film “The Unknown Hero” by Shichuan Zhang who was also the first to make the first 16-part series of an epic Chinese poem called “The Burning of the Red Lotus Temple” in 1928. Things went wrong for the Chinese producers who saw their film production censored by the government, so they had to emigrate to Hong Kong since 1930.
We have many other titles from there but the real revolution of the genre and the conquest of the Western market only took place in the 70’s when Bruce Lee’s Phenomenon landed with a Hong-Kong and American co-production. Bruce Lee will radically change the world of martial arts with his films and his martial art forever, in 1971 “The Big Boss” was released, then “Fist of Fury” and the most important posthumously of his death “Enter The Dragon” which also marks the first video of a Mixed Martial Arts fight and the use of the Kempo fingerless style glove by LEE in the scene.
From this inspiration, many productions have followed and many titles and stars were born, unforgettable Fighting Actors are Van Damme, Jackie Chan, Jet Lee, Chuck Norris who marked a golden age for martial arts movies. The MMA Phenomenon began to affect the Hollywood market and the various films included not only actors and stuntmen but also champions of the discipline, due to the rising of popularity with events and pay-per-view actions since 1993, already around 1999 many movies began to appear about cage fighting, but The First Fighters to Starr in a movie were Bas Rutten and Marco Ruas in the eliminator in 2004.
In 2008 one of the titles that made the Discipline known to the general audience was “Never Back Down” were teenagers in college challenge each other in MMA and inside the Cages, won an MTV Award for Best Fight film and such was the success that there was a Sequel 3 years later that included champion Lyoto Machida, Eddie Bravo and Big John McCarthy,
in 2016 a third sequel with a fourth coming out in 2021. In 2011 Lionsgate produces what many people identify as the best MMA movie to date, “Warrior” which tells the story of Two Brothers with a Complicated Family Situation Fighting for Different Reasons in an MMA Tournament until they Collide. One of the most original MMA movies made so far is “Here comes The Boom” a funny comedy that combines laughter and combat starring Kevin James and the legendary Bas Rutten with the collaboration of Kru Mark Della Grotte from Sityodtong Boston. But the impact of MMA on cinema does not only remain in the themed films but on the growing number of Fighters or Former Fighters who become real celebrities in other scenarios.
We can mention Randy Couture who has participated in 33 films to date including “The Expendables” series with Sylvester Stallone. One of the First Faces of the female MMA Gina Carano after hanging up her gloves after the defeat of the first female title in history against Chrys Cyborg at Strikeforce has been very successful as an actress in 15 films to date, including Marvel Studios, Disney and TV series. These characters in their appearances always bring a technical quality and combat scenes of high level even if the film does not talk about MMA as the Great Appearance of George Saint Pierre as the bad guy “Batroc” in Captain America Winter Soldier, but not only the cinema, but today more and more champions and MMA stars are present in numerous commercials and guests on television programs, testifying that the movement has world visibility superior to any other sport and that its stars, both men and women, have an important media power and that it is tempting to entertainment giants.
The figure of the modern fighter has now become a character and his deeds, as well as purely athletic, form stories within the imagination of the Fans.