‘Warrior’ Does an Outstanding Job Depicting Mixed Martial Arts

As the sport of mixed martial arts has grown in the past 10 years, Hollywood has attempted to dramatize it on screen. In 2008, “Redbelt” debuted with positive reviews despite having a rather poor plot with inaccurate depictions of jiu-jitsu and other martial arts. “Never Back Down” hit theaters in the same year and was met with the same complaints. The movie was fun to watch, but it made a mockery of MMA by reducing it to a sport of revenge and immature kids.

Though “Never Back Down” eventually moved past its vengeance story, the climax of the movie is a fight that took place in a parking lot. That’s not how a respectable professional sport should be represented. Mixed martial arts has been fighting for legitimacy for nearly two decades, and despite moving past the days when Arizona Sen. John McCain referred to it as “human cockfighting,” MMA’s campaign for authenticity continues today. Both “Never Back Down” and “Redbelt” failed to represent the sport in an authentic manner, but instead the drama of a Hollywood production reduced both movies to varying levels of stupidity.

However, the 2011’s “Warrior” moved in a different path. The movie’s DVD release allows viewers to get a true understanding of how much true mixed martial arts work was put into the movie. There are multiple scenes that take place in the gym, the independent circuit, and in the cage and each of them find a way to portray MMA in an accurate light. Viewers can clearly see jiu-jitsu and wrestling transitions on the mat while the actors properly execute Muay Thai and boxing techniques standing up. The movie does an excellent job portraying the skills needed to compete in an MMA match.

“Warrior” also does an excellent job with its characters personal lives. The average mixed martial artist isn’t a brainless barbarian who steps in the octagon just looking for a fight. This movie examines the lives of two brothers with different motivations for stepping in the octagon. One of them has a wife and child to support, which is normal in the MMA world, and the other is trying to raise money for the family of a comrade who died at war. Neither of them fight simply because they crave violence, but instead they’re trying to accomplish something real. “Warrior” depicts the issues a fighter faces well, and in doing so, paints the sport in a positive light.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some plot lines in the movie that are unrealistic for MMA. There will never be two-day tournament matching the world’s top 16 middleweights to see which one is the best in their weight class. The UFC has most of the best fighters at 185, and the company has never supported a Grand Prix tournament similar to what “Warrior” exhibited.

Furthermore, if an event resembling “Sparta” were to take place, neither brother would have earned spots in it. There are too many talented and established mixed martial artists around the world who would have been called in to compete first.

However, the overall depiction of MMA in “Warrior” is a positive for the sport. I hope other Hollywood studios looking to film a movie about MMA take a look at this flick before trying to write one of their own because “Warrior” portrayed the sport in the correct way.

Derek Ciapala has been following MMA since the days when Ken Shamrock and Royce Gracie fought in the octagon. You can follow him on Twitter @dciapala.

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