13 May Best MMA Fighters Turned Movie Stars
As the sport of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) creeps into mainstream consciousness, it’s easy to see why more and more fighters choose to try their hand in acting. They are natural showmen, know how to connect with fans, and carry bigger-than-life attitudes that are difficult to miss. Of course, none of them would be in the running for an Oscar anytime soon, but action flicks headlined by real pros transmit a different level of emotion and excitement into the silver screen.
Now to be on this list, the criteria are simple: success in the sport, and well, more-than-cameo appearances. With that said, don’t expect UFC Hall of Famers Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz (limited roles) to show up and neither are Kimbo Slice and Bob Sapp (limited success).
Honorable mentions: Mike Pyle (Universal Soldier: Regeneration); Heath Herring (Never Surrender)
“Sugar” Rashad Evans (left) appeared in the movie Locked Down with Kevin Ferguson a.k.a. Kimbo Slice and Vinnie Jones. Rashad’s best moment as an actor is yet to come around (keep your fingers crossed) but his prime years in the Octagon could be all over, highlighted by winning the UFC Light Heavyweight title at UFC 92. He is still ranked No. 3 in the recent UFC rankings, but with Daniel Cormier, Alexander Gustafsson, Anthony Johnson, and Phil Davis around, not to mention Jon Jones, the best he could be at this point is a veteran gatekeeper. At least, he has that Fox Sports gig to go along with it.
No, that’s not Chael Sonnen 15 years to the future. Modern MMA fans may not know who Taktarov is, but the Russian Bear is one of the pioneers of the sport and the UFC 6 champion. To get to the pinnacle of the tournament, which is the UFC’s format back in the day, Taktarov had to get by Dave Beneteau, Anthony Macias, and Tank Abbott in one night, and battled Ken Shamrock to a draw less than two months later. His filmography has been quite extensive, much like his fighting experience, appearing in over 20 movies, among them Miami Vice, The Death and Life of Bobby Z, and Predators.
One of the most recognizable faces from the throwback UFC days, Don Frye was also one of the most successful, winning two UFC tournaments along the way. “The Predator” lost only once in his first 16 fights to Mark Coleman but he holds victories over Ken Shamrock, Tank Abbot, and Gary Goodridge during that span. He made his film debut in Godzilla: Final Wars and went to appear in Miami Vice, Big Stan, and Public Enemies. But if you guys want to see real action from Frye, see Don Frye vs Yoshihiro Takayama.
Nicknamed “El Guapo”, Bas Rutten was one of the fighters that seemingly got better as he gets older. Unfortunately, because of an assortment of injuries, Rutten was forced to give up active competition in 1999, although he did return one more time in 2006 when no one was looking. Rutten’s ties to actor Kevin James explains his recent forays in the movies that includes funny roles in Here Comes The Boom, Zookeeper (voice for the Wolf), and Paul Blart: Mall Cop.
QUINTON ‘RAMPAGE’ JACKSON
As volatile as he is funny, Quinton Jackson‘s star unquestionably belongs to Hollywood. The former UFC 205-lb champ dons a menacing look but is as quick-witted with his one liners as they come. (E.g. “Dan Henderson broke my hand with his face.”) Yes, he was a one hell of a fighter (ask Ricardo Arona) but I am convinced doing movies is his second calling. Thankfully, Rampage is beginning to realize that.
There’s no one in the world that I’d willingly choose to rear naked choke me but Gina Carano. There’s absolutely no debate there. Carano is the very reason why women’s MMA now appears in every fight fan’s map but after compiling a 7-1 record inside the cage, the Texas-born “Conviction” cashed in on a bigger payday in the silver screen. Her first starring role was Haywire, opposite known commodities Channing Tatum, Ewan McGregor, Antonio Banderas, and Michael Douglas. As one critic puts it, the sole reason why she was in the movie was to highlight her fighting chops and not her acting skills, but that’s exactly why she’s likely to remain there in the first place.
The Saigon-born Cung Le is head and shoulders above everyone else in this list when it comes to standup fighting. His disciplines include sanshou, taekwondo, wushu, and kickboxing among others, and that impeccable pedigree allows him to successfully move in and out of active MMA competition. While Le has not won anything in the UFC, he was a former Strikeforce Middleweight champion, and is as as exciting as any fighter in the game, earning him the moniker “Human Highlight Film.” The spin-kicking Le will make a return in the Octagon against Michael Bisping in August but he has more movie projects lined up in 2014 that includes Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Destiny and a remake of The Raid.
Oh yeah, that’s our girl right there with the legends Sly and Arnie themselves. I kinda went out of a limb and broke my own rule because technically, the movie has not been released yet. Even then, Rousey is all set to do Entourage and Fast and Furious 7, all due 2015. Ever the challenge-seeker, the Olympic medalist in Judo filmed Expendables 3 while training for nemesis Miesha Tate at UFC 168. She is currently undefeated and the perfect combination of looks and kick-ass skills with her world-class grappling moves inside the Octagon.
GEORGE ST. PIERRE
Fight fans know who the man is. Georges St. Pierre is the longest-reigning UFC Welterweight champion and is in the conversation of being the greatest mixed martial artist in history when everything is said and done. Well, not all is said and done on GSP’s career yet, as far as UFC president Dana White is concerned, but his acting career could follow his success as a fighter. GSP was tabbed to play Georges Batroc, a villain in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and has appeared in Death Warrior, Hell’s Chain, and Never Surrender.
If we’re talking about a long (and very successful) MMA career and a lengthy filmography, “The Natural” is your man. A mainstay in the Expendables series as demolitions expert Toll Road, Couture also starred in the film Hijacked with Dominic Purcell and Ambushed with Dolph Lundgren. The two-time UFC Heavyweight champion also showed acting versatility by sinking his teeth into comedy as well, landing roles in Big Stan and 3 Geezers. Well, 2014 is a busy year, too, for the former UFC two-division world champion, as he’s set for the Expendables 3, Stretch (with Chris Pine and Jessica Alba), and Distant Shore, while also signing up for another stint at a fourth Expendables installment.
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