New MMA film aims for authenticity

The world of boxing has had dozens of successful movies – movies that not only saw commercial success, but also critical acclaim as well. In 1977 Rocky touched the hearts of underdogs everywhere and, as a result, took home three Academy Awards including Best Picture. Robert De Niro took us inside the life of Jake LaMotta with Raging Bull and was awarded Best Actor. More recently, The Fighter was nominated for six Oscars and took home both Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress.

Despite the repeated triumph of their combat sports brother, mixed martial arts hasn’t had the same luck at the box office. The movie Warrior gave it a try with a star-studded cast that included Tom Hardy, Nick Nolte, and Joel Edgerton. Despite the production value, some MMA fans had issues with the in-cage scenes, saying that they were not as realistic as they could have been [it is worth noting that Nolte was nominated for Best Supporting Actor]. Next came the Kevin James flick Here Comes the Boom, which admittedly was a comedy that seemingly cared quite a bit less about realism.

There have not been many attempts at creating an MMA film that fans could rally around. However, the newest foray into trying to bring the sport to the silver screen may have the most authentic look thus far.

The Team

When Tommy Zhao and Brendan Lynch set out to write a story about the sport they love, they wanted to show it in its truest form. They didn’t just want to show MMA as overly violent and action-packed, they also wanted to show the beauty of the sport. They wanted to show that it can be strategic, rhythmic, and intelligent. Ultimately, they wanted to show the side of the sport that true fans understand and laud and the “filthy casuals” criticize. The concept behind A Story About A Fight is that combat sports is the most authentic form of competition and it needs an authentic portrayal.

What sets Zhao and Lynch apart from others who have attempted to bring MMA to life on the screen is their experience. Both men are not only huge fans of the sport, but regularly train. Their skills are complementary with Zhao favoring all of the striking arts and Lynch leaning on the grappling side of things. Their training in MMA, as well as their fandom, instills in them a hard-earned sense of how MMA should look, even if that isn’t in a style that every person who will watch their film can appreciate. In addition to putting the script together in hopes of producing authenticity, Zhao and Lynch have taken roles within the film that allow the arms of their influence to extend. After writing, Zhao took on the role of director and cinematographer. Working on cinematography has allowed him to focus on what happens inside of the cage and making it look as if it does in actuality. Lynch, on the other hand, took on a very different role. In addition to helping to market the film, Lynch took on the role of the lead actor. This means that the film will star someone with extensive MMA training, which can only improve the way the combat looks.

The Story

The film A Story About A Fight takes us to the world of MMA through the career of Vili, an up and coming fighter with dreams of making it big. His father is a coach, who has his mindset on turning nobodies into champions. Despite their mutual interests, their relationship remains estranged. Years of abuse and not communicating have lead the other two apart. They only reunite when one of Vili’s father’s fighters is matched up with Vili.

The battle for Vili becomes much more than just a physical fight. In addition to seeing realistic views of MMA inside of the cage, this film seeks to show the mental battle that also exists within fighters as they prepare to enter the cage. Will Vili be able to overcome the physical obstacles of his opponent while simultaneous overcoming the mental obstacles of symbolically battling his father?


Just this week, production wrapped on A Story About A Fight. Much like the chaos of a fight, filming was fast-paced and intense. Despite the grueling process, the team reports being excited for what comes next, which is the behind the scenes work and release – scheduled for March of 2020.

If you would like to learn more about the project, you can go to their website at Over the next few weeks there will be plenty of the behind the scenes images and information posted there, so be sure to keep your eyes on it.


Author Daniel Vreeland is a co-founder of the Top Turtle Podcast, a regular contributor to the UG Feed, and a brown belt in Jiu-Jitsu at New England Submission Fighting in Amherst, Massachusetts.