Watching UFC Fighters Act is a New Form of Torture

When fighters act, it gets ugly. But does that matter to their audience?

There’s a long history of stars from the world of sport – specifically hyper-aggressive sports such as pro wrestling or ultimate fighting – attempting to crossover into the world of film. And while WWE Studios has made a relative killing with their straight-to-video offerings (including Leprechaun: Origins in 2014, starring WWE star Hornswoggle), not everyone has found the success of a Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (see: everything he’s in) or even John Cena (see: Trainwreck).

The problem: for many of these stars, acting is an excursion from their day job. While professional actors spend their time on their craft – working with acting coaches, vocal coaches, doing plays, etc. – these athletes spend their time working out, consuming large amounts of supplements, and working on their intimidation faces in the mirror. So unless you’re blessed with high doses of natural charm (see, again: The Rock), acting can be a bit of a chore.

Which brings us to Fight Valley, a new film from Broad Green Pictures that will go straight to on-demand channels on July 22. It stars UFC fighters Holly Holm, Miesha Tate, and Cris “Cyborg” Justino. It’s the female-led action movie you’ve been waiting for! Let’s watch a trailer:

It’s not too dissimilar from the usual straight-to-video offerings. The trailer does well to pull back on the dialog and focus on bloody faces and the high-stakes drama of mean-mugging. It isn’t until we get to this next clip, a scene released this past week featuring Holly Holm and Miesha Tate, that we get a real sense of the performances on display:

Here’s a rule that films like this should adopt: if your lead says more than 3 lines before kicking and/or punching someone, you’ve gone too far. To be fair, this isn’t any worse than much of what WWE Studios has delivered over the past several years. But WWE stars do have one thing working for them: their craft involves character-building and theatrics. Part of their day job is crafting a personality for themselves that will either endear them with the fanbase or paint them as the villain. For these UFC stars, these poor souls, it’s clearly a chore to get through dialogue and on to the fighting.

One of my great fascinations with this genre has always been the audience: who buys these movies? Clearly they are successful enough to warrant more productions. The truth is that it’s not the cinephile or even the casual moviegoer who is frequenting this section of the iTunes Store. It’s the fight fan – the die-hard UFC fan who simply wants more of time with the likes of Holly Holm. Consider this: Holm’s fight against Ronda Rousey, one of the great upsets in UFC history, lasted less than 10-minutes. And that includes a few minutes where the fighters just snarled at each other while being introduced. These kinds of movies, for better or worse, are an opportunity for fans to spend time with their favorite fighters. And for that, we can’t fault them.

For the rest of us who enjoy quality cinema, this is the equivalent of being punched in the face repeatedly.