The Three Definitive Mixed Martial Arts Documentaries
There are very few sports that can lay claim to being genuinely international. Football is the most obvious example that fits this criteria, but there is also the world of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) which has a strong following in North and South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa, which now has the Extreme Fighting Championship.
As with most popular sports, it is only natural that a plethora of documentaries have been made on MMA, below are three of the best.
The Smashing Machine: The Life and Times of Extreme Fighter Mark Kerr (2002)
As with the majority of things HBO produce, The Smashing Machine is a superb piece of storytelling. In the 1990s, Mark Kerr was the man in UFC, winning the Men's Heavyweight Tournament at both UFC 14 and UFC 15, before moving to Japan to compete in Pride.
John Hyams' documentary covers the highs and lows of Kerr's early MMA career, delving in depth into his addiction to drugs, his relationship with his girlfriend of the time, and his close bond with fellow MMA dignitaries Mark Coleman and Bas Rutten.
Considering Kerr was viewed as a machine for the majority of his career, this documentary does a great job in re-humanising him. You see him not as a brawler but a gentle-giant. However, when the documentary is interspersed with some of Kerr's fights you quickly remember that this man is very much a monster.
Like with most films centred on sport, The Smashing Machine focuses on the rise and fall of the American, making it a compelling watch for everyone. You needn't watch MMA to enjoy this. However, if you are squeamish then it is probably best avoided.
Renzo Gracie: Legacy (2008)
In a sport like MMA you would not expect to find dynastic lines. However, the Gracie family are very much royalty within the world of mixed martial arts. The Brazilian family have given the sport an endless amount of top Jiu-Jitsu stars, many of which have stood atop of their respective fields.
Legacy covers the career of Renzo Gracie over a ten-year span, going into depth about the legendary family Gracie hails from, which, considering they are the forefathers of the UFC and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, is riveting, as well as giving the audience an intrinsic look into the life of a mixed martial artist.
At its centre, the film focuses mostly on the in-ring career of Renzo, tracking his ascent from obscurity to notoriety. Going hand in hand with Renzo's ascension is the burgeoning popularity of the sport. Over the course of the film you can see how the sport evolved from virtually bare knuckle contests to the contemporary bouts that we see in the modern day.
For those who like a good story, Legacy has loads of them, one of the most striking is the tale of Renzo's father, Robson. The elder Grazie had the misfortune of being subjected to torture during the military junta in Brazil (1964-85) but managed to escape death thanks to the political connections of one of his students.
Fighting for a Generation: 20 Years of the UFC (2013)
When you think of mixed martial arts you almost instantly think of the UFC and the octagon. Since its founding in 1993, the MMA promotion has gone on to attract some of the best fighters in the world and do great business at the box office - UFC 100 (Frank Mir vs. Brock Lesnar II) garnered a 1.6 million PPV buyrate.
With it looking at UFC as a whole there is no sole focus on any individual fighter, instead the documentary features an array of both retired and current day stars. The amount of depth is what makes this documentary so compelling. Those tasked with producing the documentary conducted more than 60 interviews over a four-year span, featuring notable faces from the early years like Art Davie, Rorion Gracie, and Royce Gracie, as well as plenty of faces from the current day.
If you have watched UFC from the start or have just started watching it in the past few months then this documentary is certainly for you. Not only does it have a solid narrative arc but the inclusion of infamous fights from the promotion's history just make it brilliant.