With Ronda Rousey‘s upcoming roles in the next Fast and Furious and the Expendables 3 as well as GSP‘s upcoming role in Captain America: the Winter Soldier, I felt it appropriate to look at some MMA fighters who have already made the transition from fighter to actor, in some cases full time.
The criteria for this list includes in-depth roles in movies and multiple roles and the actual ability to act. Because of this, short cameos of fighters just “fighting” don’t qualify for the actual list. However, they do qualify for this honorable mention list:
~ Honorable Mentions ~
Mike Pyle: played Captain Kevin Burke in Universal Solider: Regeneration and had a small role in Men in Black 3 staring Will Smith.
Andrei Arlovski: appeared as a Universal Soldier opposite Pyle in Universal Soldier: Regeneration and in Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning.
Nate Marquardt: also appeared in Warrior as Joel Edgerton’s second round opponent as well as having a cameo in a MC Hammer’s music video.
Jason Miller: appeared in a cameo appearance in Here Comes the Boom as Lucky Patrick, one of Kevin James‘ several opponents in the film.
Mark Munoz as Romero, Satoshii Ishii as a fighter, and Kryvsztof Soszynski as Ken Dietrich all also appear in Here Comes the Boom.
Todd Duffee: appeared in Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown as Tim Newhouse along with a cameo appearance by Lyoto Machida.
Roger Huerta: appeared in Tekkan as Miguel Caballero Rojo and also in Circle of Pain along with Frank Mir and Heath Herring.
Chuck Liddell: small and cameo appearances in The Postman Always Rings Twice, How High, also Cradle 2 the Grave, Entourage, etc..
That’s enough, to the main list:
10. Rickson Gracie
A part of the historic Gracie family, Rickson has made appearances in the documentary Choke and the National Geographic series Fight Science but that’s not why he’s on this list. The only role that made him eligible for this list his almost cameo appearance in The Incredible Hulk.
Incorrectly listed as an Aikido instructor, Rickson appears helping Bruce Banner (played by Edward Norton) with his breathing in order to help keep his heart rate down. Not knowing how much he’s endangering his life, Rickson’s character goes so far as to slap Bruce on the face in order to help illustrate his points in the breathing exercises. His role is brief but it’s an effective one at portraying a wise instructor.
9. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson
Rampage has a lengthy number of cameo and smaller appearances in films and TV shows such as Confessions of a Pit Fighter, King of Queens, Miss March, and a voice role in The Cleveland Show just to name a few. Like Rickson above, that isn’t why Rampage is on this list. The role that put him on this list is first major role as B.A. Baracus in the movie remake of the A-Team.
One can argue that Rampage’s version of the character wasn’t that good but one has to also remember that he’s actually able to portray genuine emotion and pain in his character. Over the course of the movie, Jackson’s Baracus goes from a violent sole, to trying to become a man of peace, to accepting the fact that he will always have to live in a medium between the two extremes he experiences in the first half of the film.
8. Cung Le
Cung Le’s film career spans almost a decade, once again putting him in smaller roles just like Jackson above. However, it’s his more recent roles that have put him on this list. His most significant appearances that have put him in the mainstream are his roles in Fighting, Tekken, and The Man with the Iron Fists.
These roles have given him smaller parts but they are crucial towards the plot and he portrays them in just the right way. That coupled with his fighting ability naturally make him an ideal action star.
7. Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson
Kimbo Slice has been in the mainstream for a short time compared to the three men below him on this list but he’s made a bigger impact and had a more sudden resurgence in his film career. Without a doubt it’s because of his web brawling exposure but during that time he has shown in a few roles, his ability to act.
He’s also shown the ability to act in a variety of roles as shown Merry Christmas, Drake & Josh; Circle of Pain, Locked Down, and The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption. However, his most notable role is in that of Blood and Bone. In it he plays the prison gang leader and rapist J.C. who gets whooped by Michael Jai White’s character Isaiah Bone over a matter of respect.
6. Bob Sapp
Yes, “the Beast” nowadays has a tendency of going into fights and tapping out over a simple take down but he has had a few major roles. His minor role list includes movies like Izo, Devilman, Big Stan, Blood and Bone, and the reboot of Conan the Barbarian. One of his two majors roles is as the assassin Stone in the Jennifer Garner movie Elektra.
However, his biggest role is his character of Switowski in the Longest Yard. His acting is far from Oscar worthy and may even be Razzie worthy, but it’s important to plot of the film and was done in only the way Bob Sapp can portray a strong hulk of a convict with the mentality of a child.
5. Don Frye
“The Predator” is one of those fighters who started to ease into acting towards the end of his fighting career and now has something to fall back on in addition to occasional commentating for smaller promotions. His more mainstream acting appearances have been in roles in Miami Vice, The Ant Bully, Big Stan, and Public Enemies.
However, the role that’s probably his best and was also his first was his appearance in Godzilla: Final Wars. The character of Captain Douglas Gordon of the Earth Defense Forces leading the fight against monsters and aliens can be compared to that of Marshall Stacker Pentecost played by Idris Elba in Pacific Rim. Both are commanding officers with a burden on them.
4. Oleg Taktarov
Another one of the older fighters, Taktarov has been acting for almost fifteen years. He’s appeared in a lot of background roles and has appeared in movies and TV shows such as JAG, Air Force One, 15 Minutes, Rollerball, Bad Boys 2, Alias, Miami Vice, and NCIS just to name a few.
However, two of his roles stick out most. The first is as a member of Sean Bean’s team in National Treasure. The second is as the Spetsnaz, Nikolai in Predators who wound up sacrificing himself in order to take out one of the title villains.
3. Bas Rutten
Nicknamed “El Guapo” Bas Rutten has one of the longer film credit lists. He’s been acting since at least 1992 and has made appearances in shows, games, and movies. His appearances have included The King of Queens, Fight Science, Grand Theft Auto 4, Paul Blart: Mall Cop and Zoo Keeper just to name a few.
He also has had a leading role in the movie Eliminator, which was released direct to DVD. Most of his successful mainstream roles have been connected with his involvement in Kevin James movies, most recently in, Here Comes the Boom.
2 Gina Carano
The only woman on this list, Gina Carano has made in my opinion one of the better adjustments to mainstream movies. Though she’s only been in a few roles they have steadily been getting larger overtime and certainly have a place in the mainstream. Her earlier roles included Fight Girls and the video game Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3, as well as a cameo appearance in Blood and Bone.
However, she got her first leading role as Mallory Kane in the spy flick Haywire with such acting giants as Bill Paxton, Channing Tatum, Antonio Banderas, Ewan McGregor and Michael Douglas. Her latest role was as a FBI agent in Fast & Furious 6 and is set for upcoming roles in In the Blood, a female version of The Expendables, and a big screen adaption of Avengelyne.
1. Randy Couture
Of all the fighters on this list Randy “the Natural” Couture has experienced not only the biggest rise to acting, but probably also one of the more in-depth ones. His film career started out slowly while he was still fighting making cameos in the Unit and Cradle 2 the Grave. He then appeared in smaller but gradual roles in Invincible, Red Belt and Big Stan.
However, his two largest roles have come in the Expendables films and The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior. His rise does not have an end in sight as he is set for roles in upcoming movies Geezers!, Rush, Distant Shore, and The Expendables 3.
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