In combat sports today the big money isn’t always in the champion versus the top contender but rather in the gimmick or the x-factor. We have seen this more recently with such fighters as Conor McGregor, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Randy Courture, James Toney, CM Punk and Brock Lesnar. Akin to the spectacle of a circus, there is more money to be made in the unknown element and intrigue. In the film Cagefighter (2020) writer/director Jesse Quinones takes a look at multiple aspects surrounding a top MMA Champion who loses direction after suffering a loss in a huge “Super Fight” with a Pro Wrestling Champion. The film boasts quite a notable cast crossing over the film, MMA and pro-wrestling spectrum; wrestlers such as Bully Ray, Matt Hardy, Tommy Dreamer, Santino Marella, Christian, Jon Moxley. MMA fighters Luke Rockhold, Chuck Liddell and actress Gina Gershon (Bound, Face/Off).
The film centers on Light Heavyweight Champion Reiss Gibbons, played by real life MMA fighter Alex Montagnani, who works for promoter Max Black, played by Gershon. Having cleaned out the whole division with 5 title defenses, Black flips the script and opts to have reigning Pro Wrestling Champion Randy Stone, played by Jonathan Good (Moxley), be the next contender to Gibbons’ belt. Originally passing on the fight due to the inane circumstances Gibbons changes his mind and decides to take on the “Buffalo Bad Boy” with the idea of only furthering his career. What follows is similar to storylines throughout the Rocky series but just with an MMA twist. Montagnani carries the film especially well on his shoulders considering this is his first starring role; portraying a range of emotions going through the roller coaster lifestyle that is being a fighter at his pinnacle only to fall on hard times and regain his focus. As good as Montagnani is he needs a formidable foe, similar to that of Mr. T as Clubber Lang in Rocky III Good provides a believable menace as Stone, the ruthless, hardcore reckloose. Using footage as Moxley from AEW (All Elite Wrestling) solidifies his bad ass character along with testimonies from his wrestling brethren.
As much as the hype was built towards their epic clash I appreciated the other facets examined that surround the fight world: sponsorships, movie deals, MMA reporter analysis, financial dealings, the repercussions of suffering devastating loses and what that can do mentally and emotionally to a fighter. Along with relationships between his friend/manager Reggie, played by Elijah Baker, his coach Marcus, played by Liddell, and his wife played by Georgia Bradner we as the viewer get to see every aspect of Gibbons’ life. Gershon’s portrayal as the pseudo Dana White plays the role of the ever confident, deal spinning, headline maker Max Black spot on. Aside from small elements that could have been expanded on Quinones has made quite an entertaining film especially for fans of the MMA and pro wrestling worlds.
2.5 out of 5
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