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Review: MMA Documentary ‘Fightville’ Is Good for the Sport


(Props: SXSW)

By Fidel Martinez, TuVez.com

I should preface this review by stating that at best I’m a very (very) casual fan of MMA, and at worst I’m completely ignorant about the subtleties of the sport. With that said, I don’t think that admission disqualifies me from writing about a documentary film on the subject. In fact, I think I’m exactly the kind of person that filmmakers Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker were targeting with Fightville.

The film, which premiered at the SXSW Film Festival on March 12th, profiles four individuals involved in USA-MMA, a “feeder” league based out of Lafayette, Louisiana. The stars are two fighters (Dustin Poirier and Albert Stainback), their trainer (Tim Credeur), and their promoter (Gil Guillory, owner of USA-MMA). Epperlein and Tucker do a fantastic job at showing the nitty-gritty of a lower-level fighting league. From the unglamorous setting-up of the ring in a rodeo to the fighters balancing their personal lives (work, family, etc.) with their full-time job of training, Fightville provides an important contrast to the extravagance of the UFC — with its millions of viewers, hundreds of thousands of dollars in prize money for the headliners, ring girls, and promotional muscle.

But what makes Fightville truly great is how it humanizes those involved. Guillory isn’t a man who’s exploiting and capitalizing off of an audience’s desire to watch two grown men beat the living crap out of each other. Well, he is to a certain extent, but he’s more than that. Guillory is someone who hustles every waking moment to make his business prosper because if he doesn’t his family takes the hit.

Just the same, Poirer and Stainback — despite what the uninformed populace might think of MMA fighters — aren’t two random dudes who just got out of prison and stepped inside the ring for a pack of smokes and a chance to hurt someone. Quite the contrary. Outside the ring, Poirer is soft-spoken (almost mild-mannered) and friendly (see the end of this post for proof). Similarly, Stainback comes across as a very analytical guy who puts a lot of thought into everything, which made him likable and relatable. It also didn’t hurt that his ring entrance was a tribute to A Clockwork Orange, one of my favorite films of all time.

It might sound like an exaggeration, but I genuinely believe that Fightville may be one of the best things to happen to the sport in the last couple of years. It sheds a fair and unbiased light at a sport that has so often been vilified (who can forget John McCain’s infamous “human cockfighting” statement?). Yes, there is blood and brutality, but what sport doesn’t have that? As a casual observer, I think this film is a well-made sports documentary that’s only a notch or so below the now-classic weightlifting doc Pumping Iron. If I were true fan, I’d more than likely walk around with a copy in hand at all times and show it to anyone who’s ever spoken badly of the sport.

A friend of mine who works at SXSW told me that an overwhelming amount of films about MMA were submitted this year — no surprise given the meteoric rise of the sport — but they only picked one. Fightville was the right choice.


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Sudos KFC- March 23, 2011 at 2:13 pm
AHHHH got ya! I am crazy jealous, hope you had fun!
Fidel- March 22, 2011 at 11:12 am
@Sudos KFC. I was answering this question you posed at the top of the comment thread:

"However, a lot of Pumping Iron was staged out of order or massaged in a way to make it more of a film and less of a pure, factual documentary. Is that the case with “Fightville?”"

And, yes, I was at SXSW. It's now over, thankfully. Not sure I could have taken another day of the madness.
bjp2314- March 22, 2011 at 7:11 am
I am very excited about this film. I train with, work with, and know Dustin, Tim, and Albert personally and they are truelly humble, hard-working, and respectful guys. This was no where near scripted and in fact had to edited a good deal. Growing up in south Louisiana, I can absolutely say that this film is a good representation of our culture as well as our fighting subculture (I'm judging from the trailer and listening to Tim and Dustin talk about the film, haven't yet seen the whole film.) I would love for this film to make the big screen, non only for personal reasons, but I truely believe everyone would greatly enjoy it.
Sudos KFC- March 21, 2011 at 10:56 pm
talking about fightville? haven't seen it yet. Are you at sxsw or are you talking about "legacy?"
Fidel- March 21, 2011 at 9:53 pm
@Sudos KFC The film's narrative style was pretty straightforward.
Sudos KFC- March 21, 2011 at 3:49 pm
@dino...I don't give two shits dude
Dino from Philly- March 21, 2011 at 1:53 pm
@sudos
Renzo Gracie Legacy is the full name.
GistoftheFist- March 21, 2011 at 1:24 pm
Never Back Down, really? I wouldn't accept that thing free from the bargain bin at Shopko.
nesbitt- March 21, 2011 at 10:30 am
@sudos,
I have choke, and the smashing machine but i've not even heard of legacy. who does it feature?
ccman- March 21, 2011 at 10:09 am
I am pretty sure that Good/Bad for the sport has become the new 'im a real fan' in our lingo.
Sudos KFC- March 21, 2011 at 9:28 am
^I assume you mean besides:
1.Choke
2.Legacy
3.The Smashing Machine
BurritoBrosShits- March 21, 2011 at 9:14 am
Does anyone know what's going on with Dawg Fight? The trailer/teaser has been out and I've been dying to see it. There has to be better MMA docs/movies. My copy of Never Back Down is getting old.
Smitty- March 21, 2011 at 9:13 am
Everytime a new movie, documentary, book, whatever, comes out about fighting, someone thinks they have to "judge" whether it's good or bad for the sport. The sport has already taken off. It doesn't need anything to help it, and there ain't nothin that can come out that can hurt it. This film looks pretty cool, but we've seen and heard this a thousand times. It's just another way for someone to make money off of the sport. Good for them though.
Sudos KFC- March 21, 2011 at 8:18 am
thanks for the writup! Good to have a non mma "freak" give us homers a proper sense of perspective. SXSW is an amazing time (been 3 years) with some amazing films in one of the best cities in these United States.

Also: big points for the "Pumping Iron" reference...one of my all time favorite movies for sure! (maybe I give him the wrong advices lol) However, a lot of Pumping Iron was staged out of order or massaged in a way to make it more of a film and less of a pure, factual documentary. Is that the case with "Fightville?"
Morningwood- March 21, 2011 at 8:09 am
could be the Hoosier's of MMA! but probably not...
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