(Someone’s got big bracelets to fill.)
Fighting and acting have at least one thing in common: most people see trained professionals in action so often that it makes them think the job is a lot easier than it really is. That could be part of what’s luring fighters like “Rampage” Jackson and Gina Carano out of the cage and onto the movie set. Money is also a big part of it, as is the opportunity to get paid without getting beaten up. The downside, at least for the fans, is that we have about as much interest in seeing our favorite fighters act as we do in seeing our favorite actors fight.
No, I take that back. I’d much rather see Val Kilmer get in the cage than watch Randy Couture glare his way through another “Scorpion King” movie, but I digress.
The point is, our frustration with this growing trend is entirely selfish. We want fighters to fight, because that’s why we care about them in the first place. It’s sometimes hard to remember that it’s a job for them. If they get offered another job that’s easier – physically, at least – and pays similarly or even better than the old one, they don’t owe it to us to turn it down. Not unless we’re willing to pay them even when they’re too old to climb into the cage.
Not unless we’re willing to pay them even when they’re too old to climb into the cage.
Sure, that’s bound to disappoint us from time to time. Not only do we have to put up with postponed fights (looking at you, ‘Page) and endless absences from the sport (you too, Cung), but we’re also eventually forced to witness how bad they almost certainly are at acting. I mean, have you seen “Midnight Meat Train”? Let’s just say that Quinton Jackson isn’t going to be playing Othello any time soon.
But in a way, that’s also the good news. Chances are fighters can’t act well enough to make a steady living at it. Chances are they’re actually pretty terrible at it. They get the parts because they have some measure of celebrity, which is also why they can’t put off acting until their fighting days are over. They have to make that money while Hollywood producers still believe in their ability to get 18-34 year-old men into the theaters based on name value alone.
When it comes to athletes-turned-actors, there’s a qualitative scale. On the high end you’ve got Jim Brown, who walked away from an NFL career after nine seasons and who actually had (or at least developed) the acting chops to get by. On the other end of the scale you have Shaquille O’Neal. You see “Kazaam”? That’s a rhetorical question. No one saw that movie.
What I’m saying here is that, much like the girlfriend who dumped you because she thought she was much more attractive than she really was, our favorite fighters will be back. Maybe the time off will hurt their performances when they do return, but maybe that’s for the best. A couple KO losses could serve as effective cautionary tales.
If MMA fighters like Jackson and Carano want to try their hand at acting, we have to let them go. We should even try to be happy for them. They’re getting paid without getting hurt, for a change. Let them enjoy it while it lasts. Something tells me that when “Rampage” proves to be the inferior thespian even when compared to a predecessor who was more catch-phrase than craft, that gravy train is going to come to a screeching halt.