Few athletes are as nice and polite as Georges St-Pierre.
St-Pierre, a UFC Hall of Famer and two-division welterweight and middleweight champion, is considered an icon in MMA. Few were surprised by the news that the real-life, bilingual Montreal superstar crossed into the movie world to play Batroc the Leaper in the film Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which would complement the 2014 streaming miniseries The Falcon and the Winter Soldier .”
For St-Pierre, it allowed him to be something outside of himself.
“He’s a villain,” St-Pierre told Men’s Health in 2020. “I try to be a role model in everyday life, so I can unleash myself when I’m playing a villain. It’s a lot more fun.”
GSP isn’t the only fighter to take his talent from the Octagon to the big screen, as many stars from MMA have found their way into blockbuster movies and iconic streaming franchises. While some essentially played a version of themselves, others displayed a bit of range and versatility like a pound-for-pound elite fighter would.
Let’s look at the fighters who have taken the plunge, starting with the former UFC middleweight champion who inspired this list.
Usman envisioned being part of the Black Panther franchise once it hit the big screen in 2018. But for Usman, the thought was a little more literal.
“It’s something that I kind of brought into being,” Usman said. “After the first one I think I have to be there! This has to happen. I don’t care who I have to beat up, they have to make it. Years later I get the call and I loved it.
The first Nigerian-born champion in UFC history got his wish with a role in the newly released Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Though the fighter-slash actor only has “just a few lines” in his role as Naval Officer No. 1, he has the weight of sharing the stage with high-profile actors like Lupita Nyong’o, Michael B. Jordan, Angela Bassett and Daniel Kaluuya came to him on the set.
“As a fighter, you don’t realize how difficult it is. It’s very difficult,” he continued. “I have a newfound respect for these actors. It’s a tough, tough business.”
Few have consistently enjoyed more of the spotlight than Rousey.
The first American to win a medal as an Olympic gold medalist in judo, Rousey has been on the big stage for almost 15 years. Rousey eventually found her way to the UFC and fought for the first women’s bantamweight title, which she won. After a distinguished MMA career, she found her way to WWE, where she was a two-time SmackDown Women’s Champion and a one-time Raw Women’s Champion.
In terms of sport, she has always made it to the summit. And as an actress, and in many ways an action star… she can steal a scene.
The two standout moments are her appearances in Entourage and Furious 7, as both films premiered in 2015 at the height of Rousey’s tenure as UFC champion. “Rowdy” defended her title twice that year before being dethroned by Holly Holm at UFC 193 in November 2015.
In “Entourage,” Rousey’s appearance on the big screen heralded what she could ultimately be as a professional wrestler. She had presence, she couldn’t talk well with the best of them, and she was a perfect match for the other actors in the film.
Meanwhile, in Furious 7, she was just a kick-ass machine. For two minutes, her character engaged in a fight while wearing a formal dress and heels, and it’s unbelievable. It’s impossible to look away until she crashes into a DJ booth table, which is completely normal for the Fast and the Furious franchise.
One of the most recognizable figures in MMA history for his physique and personality, Sapp fought over 60 times professionally in major kickboxing and MMA promotions during the 2000s.
Because of his physical stature and charisma, Sapp was given opportunities in professional wrestling and as an actor. After briefly developing with World Championship Wrestling in the United States, Sapp made his name in Asia with New Japan Pro Wrestling and built a solid career in the square circle.
His ability to excel as a wrestler opened up opportunities for him to act. Sapp ended up being cast in big films like 2011’s Elektra and Conan the Barbarian. But what really stands out is his comedic relief in the remake of The Longest Yard. With comedians like Adam Sandler and Chris Rock on-screen throughout the film, Sapp’s performance as Switowski kept the audience laughing, including when he picked up Rock and twirled him around like a kid with a teddy bear.
Quinton “Rampage” Jackson
One of the most prominent figures in UFC history, Jackson always seemed destined for bigger things beyond the Octagon.
The fighter known as “Rampage” would eventually go up against the iconic character BA Baracus in the remake of The A-Team, a 2010 action film based on the 1980s television series of the same name. Jackson starred alongside Hollywood stars Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper and Jessica Biel and generally held her own in the film.
The Baracus character was originally played by Mr. T in the ’80s, and Jackson almost got a chance to act alongside him during the film when producers gave a cameo to the actor who played Clubber Lang in Rocky III -Offered to appear in the film, but he turned it down. This was a disappointment for fight fans as we would have had a chance to discuss which star could rock the mohawk best.
Couture believes in the power of three. “The Natural” had a legendary career in MMA, being the only three-time, two-division champion in UFC history. However, his trilogy in The Expendables as Toll Road could be almost as impressive.
Couture’s performance as an explosives expert in the film series was natural, like his nickname, due in part to his time in the US Army where he eventually attained the rank of sergeant.
Many remember the iconic fight scene from the first film between Couture and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, pitting the best of the UFC against the best of WWE. Unfortunately for Stone Cold, Austin’s character would die and die out of the franchise.
Now, rumors are swirling that The Expendables 4 will be released in 2023 and will star again alongside martial artist and actor Tony Jaa and rapper and actor 50 Cent. Could we see a fight scene next year where The Natural takes on Mr. Ip Man or Mr. Curtis Jackson?
Liddell is one of the pioneers in MMA and was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame in the Pioneers Wing. One of the most legendary UFC light heavyweight champions, Liddell is seen by many as helping to bring MMA to a wider audience.
So it’s no wonder that “The Iceman” was one of the first fighters to become a star on the big screen. Liddell landed roles in TV shows like Blade and Entourage and movies like How High, Drillbit Taylor, and Kick-Ass 2.
However, his scene with Turtle and Johnny Drama in Entourage, where they fight for a parking spot, stands out. Liddell – who acts as himself in the scene – is late in claiming the spot on the lot and begins to confront the main characters of the series. Drama without knowing who Liddell is sounds with “What’s a Chuck Liddell?” and “Chuckie” during the scene. Liddell’s daughter steps in just before an ass whipping is about to begin, with Liddell seeming ready to rip the drama in half and it’s high quality entertainment.