There’s a moment early on in Fight Life in which Jake Shields laments (or comes as close to it as he can while retaining his trademark roboticness) the negative effects his career has had on his personal life.
“Everyone’s always like, ‘What are your hobbies?’ and unfortunately, I don’t really have any hobbies because MMA is my hobby, my job, my career. My whole life revolves around it at this point, you know?”
It’s a statement that both serves as the mission statement of the aptly named Fight Life and one that would perhaps support the idea that MMA fighters are not the most intriguing subjects around which to base a documentary. Fighters fight for their families, or to overcome demons from their past, or simply because it’s all they know. While these may be considered fresh revelations to the most casual of MMA fans, it’s nothing that a seasoned fan of the sport hasn’t been treated to a zillion times over in the lead-up to a UFC event or boxing match. As a result, Fight Life winds up feeling less like an intimate look into the personal lives of guys like Shields and Beerbohm and more like an 80-minute Countdown episode.
Chronicling the lives of Jake Shields and Lyle Beerbohm (among others) in the lead-up to their 2009 fights with Robbie Lawler and Duane Ludwig, respectively, the documentary from James Z. Feng is an equally inspiring and underwhelming look at the daily struggles and triumphs of the professional mixed martial artist. Part of the blame for the film’s shortcomings can be placed on its subjects — or at least Shields, who has never been a charismatic individual despite his accomplishments. But really, the biggest issue facing the film is its outdated perspective. MMA has undergone several huge changes in the time between when Fight Life was shot and its release, and neither Shields nor Beerbohm have exactly become the dominant forces that the documentary attempts to set them up as.
That’s not to say that Fight Life is absent of any compelling moments, however…