Now that MMA has become vastly more popular with the mainstream, every fighter with a story to tell is peddling a book. Matt Hughes is currently on tour promoting his questionable memoir (I use that term very loosely), Chuck Liddell will soon release a work, Iceman: My Fighting Life, which he no doubt dictated to a ghostwriter via text messages, and even Tito Ortiz reportedly has an epic of his own in the works. What a time to be alive and be semi-literate.
But all these MMA works only make me think back to the now infamous Mark Kerr documentary, The Smashing Machine. It’s an oversimplification to refer to it as a movie about an MMA fighter, since it’s just as much a character study and a look inside addiction and the forces that support it within one man’s life. It’s also painful just watching the relationship between Kerr and girlfriend Dawn Staples, which is destructive and dangerous even if they’re the only ones who can’t see it.
What I really love about this movie, apart from the main focus on Kerr’s life, career, and addiction, is the inside look we get at the world of pro fighters in the early years of the 21st century. They weren’t superstars, they weren’t self-aware enough to be pretentious, and so there’s an honesty there that is somewhat rare to see. When the crew travels to Mark Coleman’s home, for example, we learn that he lives very modestly with his wife (who looks to be about seventeen years old) and brood of children.
But while most MMA fans have seen the actual movie, the DVD extras are just as entertaining. There’s a scene inside the Gracie home, where a fight is always just moments away from breaking out on the living room floor (don’t worry, they have mats to cover the carpet), and a look inside a training camp with Bas Rutten. In particular, there’s this scene where Kerr asks Bas to put a hurting on Ricco Rodriguez (thanks to Cage Potato for dredging this up) after Ricco spurned training sessions to go drinking and carousing with bar sluts.
It’s especially interesting now that we know what’s become of Ricco and the path to self-destruction he was on even then. If nearly getting knocked out by Bas couldn’t turn his life around, you got to figure the guy’s a lost cause.