Top 10 Professional MMA Fighters Changing Careers Into Actors

Tags: #RondaRousey ,   #AndersonSilva ,   #MMAFighter ,   #MMA

Dan N. Scarborough

Dan N. Scarborough

Last updated:  2023-05-16 06:00:08

To become a thriving actor, you have to fulfill some requirements. This means you have to look good (or at least distinguishable) have a great character and a work ethic. That was probably the idea behind so many professional MMA fighters turning into actors. MMA is one of the physically most demanding and dangerous sports globally, and its practitioners check all the boxes when it comes to character, fitness, and discipline. The only thing MMA doesn't guarantee is acting talent, though there are some legendary fakers in MMA. Usually, MMA fighters are typecast in action roles as a part of an ensemble cast. The wish to be recognized without risking their health and even getting some money is a practical reason for a career change. Now, let's see the ten fighters who most successfully made this transition.

10. Tito Ortiz

The bad boy and his bad acting career

The bad boy from Huntington Beach is one of the most recognizable fighters. That's not only because of his performance in the fights but also for his eccentric behavior and controversies. Yet, his most incredible celebrity stunt so far was the marriage with Jenna Jameson. Sadly, it didn't last long, but it made a good story. 

The most notable Tito Ortiz movie appearance was in "Cradle 2 The Grave" with Jet Li, Run DMX, Randy Couture, and many other actors and fighters. Unfortunately, he was pretty much sidelined and served as a mere goon. He acted in numerous other movies, but none were a commercial success.    

9. Kimbo Slice

He could've been a contender if he lived longer

Bahamas native Kevin Ferguson was one of the most exciting and colorful faces of MMA. Born into a poor family, he participated in many street fights, where he demonstrated the high level of manhandling people. His impressive skills and stern demeanor soon started to attract attention worldwide. With a stroke of luck, Kimbo became one of the biggest MMA attractions, earning contracts in UFC and Bellator. At the same time, he was a professional boxer who stayed undefeated.

Yet, Kimbo's fighting career was inconsistent, with huge ups and downs. After seven fights in the octagon, he decided to switch careers in favor of acting. His first roles were in "Merry Christmas, Drake & Josh" and "Blood and Bone." Due to his charisma, he'd probably make a successful acting career if he lived longer. Unfortunately, Kimbo Slice died due to heart failure, aged only 42.   

8. Cung Le

He fought with the best in business

Cung Le was one of the most attractive MMA fighters, thanks to his high-level kickboxing and wrestling. Yet, his combat career came to a halt in 2015 when he was falsely accused of using performance-enhancing drugs. Soon he started to act in action movies, and his attractive style transferred well in movie fights. 

Cung Le's debut role was Marshall Law in the video game adaptation "Tekken." Although the movie itself was sub-par, Le performed really well and portrayed the beloved character in a good way. He also appeared in several Asian movies, along with the biggest stars of Hong Kong cinema, such as Donnie Yen and Tony Leung. Furthermore, he acted alongside Jean Claude Van Damme and Scott Adkins. Despite not fighting in a ring anymore, Cung Le remains a recognizable face among the fight lovers.  

7. Chuck Liddell

The best actor for the role of himself

Chuck Liddell is one of the best light heavyweight fighters in MMA history. Hence, his accomplishments inside the octagon are hard to count. Additionally, his rivalry with the aforementioned Tito Ortiz drew much attention. When his career passed zenith (dramatically and spectacularly), Liddell turned to acting. 

Being a former champion and one of the faces of MMA, Liddell had it pretty easy finding the roles. Nonetheless, due to his limited acting range, he mostly played himself. Thus, you could see him in series like "Hawaii Five-0" and "Bones," but his most popular show was the ninth season of "Dancing With the Stars." In 2015 he starred in "War Pigs" along with Dolph Lundgren and Mickey Rourke, and he didn't feel out of place with such big names.   

6. Anderson Silva

The grand champion speaks English with his fists

The famous Spider is one of the greatest fighters who ever graced the octagon. Silva was an untouchable champion who made top contenders look like little kids for more than a decade. Silva might've been in the top 3 MMA fighters of all time, and his heydays will remain one of the best examples of dominance in MMA. However, he wasn't so lucky when it came to acting. 

The main reason for that bad fortune is most likely a language barrier. Unlike his American colleagues, Silva's English is not on a native level. Regardless, his exceptional martial arts skills look great on video too. Therefore, he communicates using punches and kicks rather than speech in his roles. The vast majority of his parts are in action flicks, except for a documentary "Like Water," where you can see how Bruce Lee inspired Silva's life.

5. Bob Sapp

Sapp avoided typecasting at all cost

Bob Sapp is one of the most exciting people in MMA. He's the true definition of a gentle giant with a scary appearance and wholesome personality. Sapp was already a massive star in Japan while being a fighter there, and he acted in some high-profile movies and TV shows. His idol career went better than his fighting profession, so he switched to acting full time. 

With his scary appearance, he could have played the bodyguards and villains. Still, his first American role was in "The Longest Yard" as a benevolent, comic-relief giant. Later, he appeared in another prison comedy, "Big Stan," in a similar role. Yet, he did portray more villainous characters in the "Conan" remake and "Blood and Bone." Considering he retired with $10 million earned, it seems that all his silliness paid off big time.

4. Ronda Rousey

A lot of opportunities for the famous fighter

Ronda Rousey was hyped for years as the best female MMA fighter. She was fed hand-picked opponents, destroying them all with her Olympic Judo skills. Sadly, after a couple of devastating losses, Rousey's fighting career came to a halt. Thankfully, her worldwide popularity made it easy for her to quickly replace the octagon with a silver screen. 

Rousey appeared first in "The Expendables 3," along with a stellar cast of action heroes. However, her role wasn't praised as the highlight of the movie. Later she was given smaller roles in "Fast and Furious 7" and "Entourage." Additionally, Rousey was also a voice actor for Sonya Blade in the new Mortal Kombat 11. After joining WWE, Rousey has the opportunity to participate in some big-budget projects by the company.   

3. Randy Couture

UFC veteran joins with action movies old-timers

Randy Couture is among the most decorated MMA heavyweights, holding titles in the light heavyweight and heavyweight categories. His achievements inside the octagon are numerous, and he's one of the people who helped MMA evolve into the modern era. Also, he was one of the most complete fighters with both strength and technicality.

Couture's acting career started on a high note. He was the original member of "The Expendables," with Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Jason Statham, Mickey Rourke, Jet Li, and others. In "The Expendables," his crowning moment was a fight scene against WWE veteran Steve "Stone Cold" Austin. That, and when he explains how cauliflower ears appear.  

2. Georges St-Pierre

He fought Captain America and lived to talk.

George St-Pierre is widely recognized as one of the best MMA fighters, up with Anderson Silva. He ruled supreme in the welterweight division and was unstoppable at the height of the game. He quit as a champion in 2013 and came back four years later to win the middleweight title. After that, he retired as one of the few double champs in MMA history. 

St-Pierre's acting career would look similar to Anderson Silva's because of his non-native English if it weren't for Marvel Studio. He was given the role of the George Batroc, a French terrorist, and St-Pierre used his five minutes of glory exchanging hits with Captain America in "Winter Soldier." In the same role, St-Pierre reappeared in the TV show "Falcon and the Winter Soldier." 

1. Gina Carano

The supreme butt-kicker both in and out of the ring 

Gina Carano was the first female MMA superstar. Thanks to her good looks and tremendous skills in beating people up, she quickly rose to stardom. Consequently, her success and popularity opened the door for many future MMA ladies. Although she retired after her first defeat, Carano effortlessly jumped the wagon from combat to an acting career. 

Carano started hard, with the lead role in the critically acclaimed film "Haywire." While her acting was decent, what really made the audience awed was her skill in hurting people. She starred in a few more action movies, being quite comfortable as a typecast ass-kicker. There were rumors about Carano taking the role of Wonder Woman, but the closest she got was dating Henry Cavill. After all, she ended up in a comic book movie, "Deadpool," beating the bejesus out of Colossus. However, the pinnacle of her career was the role of Carasynthia Dune in the Star Wars TV show "The Mandalorian." Unfortunately, she quickly lost it, but that's another story.     

There's an increasing number of fighters turned actors lately. Well, we guess it's much easier to pretend to beat people up and get paid for it rather than to do it for real. Also, combatants have an innate wish to be recognized, and there aren't many ways to go after years of fighting. With all said, we're thankful there are so many already trained fighters in the movie business. 

What are some of your favorite MMA fighters turned actors? What other fighters outside of MMA do you enjoy watching on the silver screen?

Photo: xcnatch/Evolve MMA



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