MMA vs Martial Arts MoviesOk, yeah I run a  website talking about Martial Arts Movies, so you probably already know which I prefer.

But these days MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) and the UFC have really become so popular that they’re now household names, even more so than martial arts movies to many.  MMA is a sport (although the UFC is classed as entertainment these days isn’t it?) but it’s popularity owes a lot to what happens outside the cage, ring or octagon.

Let’s take a look at the two, inside and outside of the mediums.

Accessibility & Cost

Before considering the entertainment itself, how about how accessible each is.

A good movie can be found for free, it can streamed on Netflix or something similar for next to nothing, and a DVD or Blu-ray purchase, ranging from the $3 bin to a $50 special edition is still cheap in comparison to paying for a UFC event.

But we’re not just looking at the UFC. There are other MMA events that are much cheaper to see on TV or even at your local bar if they screen it for free.  But generally speaking, Per per view or even going live are going to cost you a hell of a lot more.  So movies seem to be the more financially efficient choice.

So movies win this round only slightly, but it’s not just about money….

The Social Factor

You can get some buddies over anytime to watch a movie – yet you are likely to see less amrtial arts movie gatherings than parties surrounding MMA fights.

Not only can you go to your friends house or to the local bar with a group of people, due to the unpredictable nature of MMA (in comparison to martial arts films) there are more opportunities discuss and debate.  You can place bets with your friends or online. You know there are live UFC matches to bet on today, place a bet and win real money! What could make an outcome more compelling and climactic than the possibility of losing or winning money? Gambling is something of a social pastime.

Overall MMA is a larger culture, but film buffs have other things to discuss and debate – choreography, filmmaking, etc.  It lends itself more to social gatherings than is actually realized.  So although films have potential, it’s a not quite as mainstream as MMA.

It ultimately has similar value but I’d give MMA the slight edge.

The Fighting Itself?

Now to the most obvious part, which fights are more entertaining?

There’s a big difference physically.  Real fighting is about non-telegraphic movement and no nonsense efficiency in movement – movies are the opposite!  Martial Arts Movies have larger, more visible strokes, every move is take to an inefficient level to showcase a high level of energy and acrobatics.  It’s supposed to be visually stimulating.

Martial Arts movies are designed to be more entertaining to watch, that’s why it’s such an artform. But….

…it comes down to perception.  In a Martial Arts film you know the hero will win. I an MMA fight you don’t know who will win! Although MMA fights look plain in comparison, the tension, risk and building up give them an edge films don’t have – unpredictability.

In the real world anything can happen. GSP got taken out by Matt Serra years ago – that was a shock. One, like many other upsets, that has people jump from their seats. A good film might not have you jump out of your seat, but you;’ll be on the edge of it through out each fight.

This one is a bit of a draw.  But now things get interesting…

The Plot

You may not realise it, but both MMA and films share this similarity – a strong story that builds up the action.

Sure, a film’s plot is right in front of you – but MMA’s plot is driven through trash talk, media events and before you know it you’re watching the fights talking about the interviews.  They even put a final short promo before the big fights, because they know it builds up the tension.

Look back at martial arts films and the written storyline is a plot designed to build up action.  These two different mediums of entertainment act in the exact same way.  Draw.

Boyka - an unforgettable character


Fictional vs real, written vs real life.  Films are written to be entertaining but as before, the unpredictability of a real person in a sport can make a huge difference.

We all know that Boyka is the king of Prison fighters, but we also know Conor MacGregor is the king of trash talkers! Bruce Lee plays Mr Lee in Enter the Dragon, a cool, collected and spiritual being compared to his peers, Georges St Pierre plays a traditional, cool, collected Karate fight who seems humble in comparison to the MMA trash talkers. Ronda Rousey? Man, she’s a character and ahalf – one of the most popular fighters on the planet.

conor macgregor

Each fighter, film or sport, has a strong character that identifies them and we connect with the extremes. Once again I can see a big similarity between both mediums…

So what’s my conclusion?

The title asks the wrong question, it’s not which is better but which you prefer – both act very similarly and I’ve met many who trash one (film or MMA) and elevate the other.  But both mediums tell their story, and present their action with the same tools.

People love martial arts movies because the formula (when execute well) works.  The UFC and other MMA organisations use this formula and create compelling characters by highlighting the traits of real people.

What are your thoughts?  Am I babbling crap up here or do you agree?  Leave a comment below!

Thanks for reading


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