Miami, FL – I’ve been a fan of the sport of MMA for quite some time, maybe 17 years. I remember it was my cousin Jeff that introduced me to a few Pride fights. Pride Fighting Championship was an international fighting organization based in Japan. Now, it wasn’t just the fact that this was a brutal sport in which the world’s best fighters were brought together to soccer-kick each other’s heads in. No, there was the huge CAPCOM logo right in the middle of the ring that stood out to me and that really made me stick around. Let me explain. I am not much of a gamer, but there are two games that I’ve been playing for years – Street Fighter and Grand Theft Auto.
The original Street Fighter was an arcade game released in 1987. It’s a fighting game with a bunch of different characters from around the world that participate in a world fighting tournament. The actual storyline has evolved throughout the years in which our characters are fighting an evil crime organization. However, what really made this game so revolutionary, in my opinion, is that each fighter was drastically different from the other. There were so many different fighting forms, from Karate, Boxing, to Sambo Wrestling. You must be thinking, “well, Big Ron, all the Shotokan fighters are just copies of each other”, and I would say, “no, they’re not.” The main characters, Ryu and Ken, who are practitioners of the same art form, are different in that Ryu is balanced, and Ken is more of the aggressive fighter. The appeal to me was the variety. I always played Street Fighter using the larger characters, such as Zangief, who is actually a Sambo practitioner. Throughout the years there have been sequels, prequels, expansions, and whatnot, and with each one, they’d introduce more characters. What was great is that each fighter brought different fighting styles. We got more Muay Thai, Tae Kwon Do, actual Karate, and many more. Thanks to Wikipedia, I found out that many of the original fighters were actually based on real people that actually practiced their counterparts sport.
— Mania Rider (@ManiaTakeover) October 26, 2017
As I got older, so did the games and movies. What I am trying to point out in this article is my belief that since the introduction of the sport of MMA, both video games and movies have changed for the better and continue to change, in part, thanks to MMA. Hear me out. I am no expert, but I have noticed a few things. When Street Fighter was released, a lot of the fighters did use actual fighting techniques, but many of the moves were exaggerated. I know it’s a damn game, but over the years they have improved the choreography of the moves, making it seem far more realistic. Once again, I know it’s a game, but I still look at characters like Cammy. In Street Fighter 4 she has an Ultra Special called “Cammy Quick Combination”. It’s not exactly an MMA move. It’s more like some combat training move, in which she utilizes her grappling to grab the opponent and twist and contort her opponents in a matter to disable them. I believe it shows a shift in the move set to a more realistic and practical one. The last two Street Fighter games have added a few characters that are also heavily influenced by the rise of MMA. Street Fighter 4 added a character by the name of Abel, from France. He is actually listed as having “Mixed Martial Arts” as his fighting style. His moves are Judo based. Abel, believe it or not, is actually based on two world-renowned martial artists. One being Fedor Emelianenko, also known as “The Last Czar”, who is considered one of the best heavyweights ever. The other being French Judo Olympian, David Douillet. Combat sports have been around for centuries, clearly, Street Fighter has gathered ideas from all over the world to create such a diverse, expansive and successful franchise. Now, that’s not to say all their characters are MMA or Combat Sport influenced, but the inspiration is there. MMA, at the end of the day, is a gathering of several different disciplines, schools, and different mentalities. Street Fighter has always captured this essence from the idea that no character is that much better than the others (except Ken! I hate you KEN!).
— ONE Championship (@ONEChampionship) September 4, 2016
Now, for another example of how the rise of MMA has changed pop-culture; yes that’s what this is about, Hollywood has also changed how they present fight scenes. Back in the 80’s and 90’s, all action movies would have fight scenes with a muscled up dude. They would fight guys in a heavily choreographed fight scene, where wild punches and kicks were thrown. We all ate that crap up, but now there’s a shift in realism, in terms of fighting scenes, not to mention the physique of these action heroes has changed. Another thing to consider is how many MMA fighters are becoming actors or actresses. The first one that comes to mind is, of course, Gina Carano! Yes, Gina Carano! Most of you would say Rhonda Rousey, but no, fuck her (just kidding). Gina Cerrano was the former Strikeforce female champion before being destroyed by the current women’s Bantamweight champion, Cristine Santos. She first gained notoriety in the revamped version of American Gladiators in 2008, as Crush. Her first breakout role, however, was in the movie Haywire, which I actually liked. After that, she’s gone to be in several other action movies, one of them being the huge hit that was Deadpool. Ok, Rousey was also featured in several movies, of course. We’ve seen her in The Expendables and Entourage. She was also in the Fast and the Furious franchise, Furious 7, but that’s only after Gina paved the way in Fast & Furious 6. That’s just another example of how Hollywood is looking at MMA athletes to become the next big action star, and it makes sense. These athletes don’t need a stunt double for fight scenes considering that they get into fights for a living, workout constantly, and have strict diets, so they’re always ready. Besides that, there are movies that are now injecting some real fighting. What is that you say? No longer are we seeing over the top kicks, wild haymakers, with back and forth action. These movies are implementing more grappling techniques and other combat-sport techniques. I know that a lot of these moves are more to do with military moves and not so much the combat-sport aspect of it, but still, it’s a drastic change.
— MMAWeekly (@MMAWeeklycom) May 16, 2018
MMA movies have been around for years. One of my personal favorites is Bloodsport. But in today’s pop culture, the spotlight has shifted to MMA fighters and also an increase of MMA themed movies. I believe this exposure to the mainstream will obviously increase visibility to the sport. Which, in turn, will increase its mainstream fan base, leading to an increase in the popularity of the sport. We have more MMA athletes in movies and television shows. Keith Jardine is in television. Josh Barnett has been in movies, and Roy Nelson has also made a movie. We now have Chuck Liddell getting in on that Big Brother reality show. Bas Rutten also appeared in several movies. I personally welcome this expansion of MMA into the mainstream pop culture. In my opinion, there are some parallels between the current MMA uprise and when professional wrestling was shooting all the way to the top. However, at the same time, I fear that overexposure will hurt the brand and the product itself. But, who knows, we can only wait and see.