American Fighter

Dr. Craig's Martial Arts Movie Lounge

There's a weird cold chill in the MMA world that bothers me. Over the past month, several TV programs like Law & Order: SVU, where because a crime suspect was an MMA practitioner, the assumption was drawn that the suspect is dangerous and has a violent temper. Though a far cry from when masters of martial arts characters on TV were respected for following a code of ethics and fight only when it was needed, this profiling of MMA athletes is still rather odious.

Successful boxing films use a formula, a down trodden misunderstood lad overcomes hurdles by finding a mentor who changes the lad's attitude and helps him become a champion or win a rematch. MMA films need to keep having characters with a sense of humanity fighting for noble causes rather than for ego, fame and fortune. Favorably, American Fighter (2019) pursues an upright path with a Persian persuasion.


American Fighter Movie

The film that put Greek American actor George Kosturos on the Hollywood radar was his role as Ali Jahani in American Wrestler: The Wizard (2016), a character based on the film's producer Ali Afshar who after fleeing the political turmoil of 1970s Iran to America, tackled high school wrestling in order to fit in and combat prejudice.

Kosturos reprises his role in American Fighter (AF), a fictionalized, MMA-influenced sequel about how college wrestler Ali quickly raises $30,000.00 in cash to pay a smuggler that can help his ailing mother in dire need of medical help, escape to America from Iran during the 1981 Iranian Revolution. As a tested wrestler with a powerful right cross, an illegal underground fighting promoter with untoward intentions courts him.

After Ali racks us his victories and purses, the promoter convinces the feeling indestructible, friend dumping and ego grasping Ali to bet his winnings on himself to defeat a deadly experienced Thai kickboxing titleholder. Mincemeat later, if Ali has the wisdom to see the light, his saving grace might come from a least expected source.

In preparation for Ali's return, Kosturos gained 20lbs and while training twice a day, six days/week for eight weeks in preparation for the new challenge of combining his already pre-learned wrestling techniques, he incorporates the standard evolved skills that MMA folks have learned mostly from five martial arts: wrestling and BJJ for grappling; BJJ for locks and joint manipulation; boxing; muay Thai for knee and elbow strikes; and muay Thai and taekwondo for kicking. Hats off and admiration to Kosturos for his hard work, martial training and commitment to the role.

American Fighter 2019

Though mixed martial artists are formidable fighting athletes in and outside the Octagon, these limitations make MMA cinema fights repetitive and nothing new. To paraphrase a multitude of critics, "If you've seen one savage beat-down, you've seen 'em all."

It's probably why the various Best MMA Movies Lists of all time include non-MMA films to bolster their lists like Ong Bak, Mortal Kombat (1995), Ip Man, and impiously a film from a man that strongly opposes limitation, Bruce Lee's Enter the Dragon.

This supports the notion why MMA films are fading. I'm surprised that AF's co-star Patrick Flanery's Born a Champion (2021), which Kosturos co-produced, isn't on any list. Hollywood says don't fix it if it ain't broke, I say fix things before they break. This could start by creating a new genre, Mixed Movie Martial arts (MMMA or 3MA).

What I like about AF beyond Kosturos' honor-to-the-genre praiseworthy performance is the audacity to take a real character with wrestling experience and expand his universe by making an imaginable and moving predictive story about what Ali could accomplish by mixing BJJ, kicks and boxing into his wrestling repertoire. At the end of the day, it's an allegory on the growth of MMA in the United States of an American Fighter.

American Fighter Poster
Introducing Martial Arts School Listings on Black Belt Mag!
Sign Up Now To Be One Of The First School Listed In Our Database.
SUBSCRIBE TO BLACKBELT MAGAZINE TODAY!
Don't miss a single issue of the worlds largest magazine of martial arts.
Executioners From Shaolin
Executioners From Shaolin / Lau Kar-leung

Dr. Craig’s Martial Arts Movie Lounge

In Part I, I covered the following films from 1970-1976 in order of the years the films came out: Brothers Five; The Avenger; Fist of Fury; Black Tavern; Chinese Iron Man; Defensive Power of Aikido; Fists of Vengeance; The Gallant;Pacific Connection; and The Tongfather. The last 10 films are presented in a similar fashion.
Keep Reading Show less
Bruce Lee’s “10,000 Kicks” Challenge – Complete 10,000 Kicks in 10 Days

2021 Update!

The Power of the Martial Spirit = Master Yourself so You Can Be of Service to the World.
For millions of Americans, hungry kids are their reality. Not enough money to buy groceries. Not enough food to last until the next paycheck.

Black Belt Magazine, The Bruce Lee Foundation, and Sifu Harinder Singh are calling all Martial Artists and School Owners to come together to Kick Off the New Year and unite to Kick Hunger Away. Let’s make #10000KICKS go viral.

Keep Reading Show less
Boxing
Shutterstock / Slatan
When we think of superheroes, it is likely that images come to mind of Superman flying high over Metropolis, Spider-Man swinging from wrist-spun webs, or any variety of lasers shooting from alien eyes, some kind of magic weaponry, or ancient mystical powers. However, some superheroes created their superpowers, such as Batman, Green Arrow, Nightwing, The Punisher, and more. They forged their formidable skills through rigorous training and relentless dedication. And we can all do that. Can’t we?
Keep Reading Show less