Best Boxing & MMA Documentaries

mike tyson

When it comes to the fight business, real-life expressions are often far more dramatic than anything Hollywood could ever dream up of achieving, as these fight documentaries prove.

Boxing can be said to be a natural subject for a documentary – the sport provides so much charisma, both in and out of the ring, providing plenty of fodder for filmmakers year in and year out. So is the case of MMA, but as a relatively new sport, it has not yet garnered numbers of docs the way boxing has over this past decade.

5. Golden Girl (2016)

A lot goes into making a great fight documentary, but sometimes what pushes a good documentary into something worthwhile is a simple twist of fate. As it so happens in June 2013, Swedish documentarian Susanna Edwards happened to be present when “female Rocky” Frida Wallberg was knocked out by Australian boxer Diana Prazak, suffering a cerebral haemorrhage. Wallberg was treated at Karolinska Institutet for the damage. The doctors successfully drained the blood.

Over a month later she revealed in an interview that she had suffered complications from the knockout and she had no long-term plans for the future besides to rehabilitate and recover. The great champion, who had already provided Edwards with years worth of footage, allowed the documentarian to follow her recovery process both before and after the tragic incident which revealed that Wallberg’s seemingly limitless determination is inspiring.

4. Fightville (2011)

For anyone wanting a better understanding of what the beginning of a fight career looks like, Fightville is definitely one of the movies to watch. The film takes us back when Dustin Poirier was fighting in Louisana, the champ and some other fighters, including the likes of Tim Credeur, Albert Stainback and Derrick Krantz, were the subject of a documentary following the aspiring MMA fighters. Also examined in this documentary are the motivations behind every men’s backgrounds for getting into the sport. As directed by Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker, who is renowned for documenting war movies in the Middle East. Fightville is said to be inspired when Tucker observed soldiers watching and practising mixed martial arts.

3. When We Were Kings (1996)

Boxing legend Muhammed Ali has always been the subject of numerous boxing documentaries and even the ones not tagged as a documentary. However, When We Were Kings seems to be the best of them all. Following the most famous heavyweight championship boxing match of all time that took place in Kinshasa, Zaire – now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo -, When We Were Kings is a revelation even for those who already know how it panned out between champion George Foreman and challenger Muhammad Ali. Even knowing how much of quote machine the “Greatest” was in his days, one will find it surprising just how many great lines he generated. When We Were Kings as directed by Leon Gast won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature.

2. The Smashing Machine

The Life and Times of Extreme Fighter Mark Kerr (2002) – This documentary takes us back to when the UFC fight promotion was in its infancy. Then undisputed champion Mark Kerr came along for a brief but successful career in the fledgeling promotion. From there the Mark Kerr lost focus and moved on to Pride, and similarly dominated the competition. The documentary, however, is about much more than just Kerr’s fighting career. It also shed light into a dark and up-close look at the extreme fighter injuries, pain killer addiction, and the destruction wrought in his personal relationships, The Smashing Machine offers fans an intimate portrayal of what MMA can turn its fighter into at its grittiest.

Saving the best for the last, arsenal blogs selected the below that happened in 2008 as a mandatory must-watch documentary:

1. Tyson (2008)

The great thing about Michael Gerard Tyson – popular known with the stage name Mike Tyson is the former undisputed world heavyweight champion’s ability to staying strong and determined in a difficult time and describe his failings and heartbreak. Tyson – who holds the record as the youngest boxer to win a heavyweight title, at 20 years, four months, and 22 days old – makes good use of this ability with gut-wrenching interviews that revealed the rise and fall of the boxing legend. In particular, his emotion-filled description of his relationship with his trainer Cus D’Amato makes for devastating viewing.

As directed by James Toback, the documentary views Tyson solely through his own point of view and therefore lacks a broader, critical understanding of the fighter. However, the film’s sole focused on Tyson also provides the audience with a strong look into what makes the man, and feels exceedingly honest.

Over the years I've watched the UFC develop into the powerhouse it is today, organizations like PRIDE, Strikeforce and WEC rise and fall, and Bellator emerge as a new force on the MMA landscape. Throughout it all I've remained captivated by the sport and I'm excited to cover what comes next here on MMA Insight.