It took almost as much time (34 seconds) for Ronda Rousey to dispatch her latest challenger down in Brazil as it did for her next film project to be announced. Rousey has taken the sports world by storm in 2015, and she’s looking to do the same in the movie world, having appeared in The Expendables 3, Furious 7 and Entourage between whooping ass in the Octagon. She’s even passed up former hot thing fighter-turned actress Gina Carano. The thing is, she’s not (yet) as passable an actress as Carano, though she’s certainly more badass.
It took some scouring – and in a few cases straight-up stretching – but I’ve put together a list of 10 MMA fighters who could conceivably match or exceed both Rousey and Carano in the entertainment world if given a chance beyond the bargain bin of your local Walmart.
10. Nick Diaz
Nick Diaz is – along with his younger brother Nate – one of the most divisive and popular fighters in the history of MMA. We’re talking about a guy who, after losing a 2012 fight to Carlos Condit, somehow leveraged that loss into a grudge match with then-UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St-Pierre in 2013; oh, and he followed up that second loss by talking his way into a 2015 main event with returning Brazilian superstar Anderson Silva.
What makes Diaz so beloved by his fans is exactly what makes him so hated by others. In short, he just doesn’t give a rat’s ass what you think about him, and he’s not afraid to say it. He’ll flip you the bird before and after punching you in the mouth. Punch him back, and he’s liable to spit out a wad of blood in disgust at your pillow fists, no matter how much damage you actually did.
It’s extremely difficult to picture Diaz transitioning into the world of film if for no other reason than the fact that he’s socially awkward and seems to hate public scrutiny, even as he embraces the role of the heel in nearly all of his fights. Still, with the right director and the right script – I’m thinking an 8 Mile-style biopic that would put anything Rousey and Co. cobble together to shame – then you’ve really got a potential cultural phenomenon on your hands. Title it “209” after his local Stockton, California area code and cut the checks.
Hell, pay someone to follow Diaz and his brother around for a month and you could make your own subscription channel.
Look this kid up on the Interwebs and you’ll understand why there is not an ounce of hyperbole in that statement.
9. Daniel Cormier
MMA fans had known about DC for years before his now-infamous lobby brawl with then-Champion Jon “Bones” Jones, but for much of his early career, the pleasant, somewhat shy Olympian was considered a highly skilled, albeit vanilla figure when it came to fight promotion.
Of course, that all changed in the midst of his rivalry with Jones, which was one of the most genuine and heated rivalries in the recent history of combat sports. DC went on to lose to Jones in early 2015, but his star has continued to rise thanks to his everyman appeal and his ease and comfort as a sports analyst on FOX Sports 1.
DC understands how to promote fights and he’s becoming increasingly at ease in front of a camera, which would make a transition to film a piece of cake (and chicken) for the current UFC Light Heavyweight Champion. But by far the biggest selling point for Cormier as a movie star is his sense of wit and humor. If he’s in the room, you’re going to get burned, but you’ll laugh it off because he’s so damn likeable.
Toss Cormier into a dramedy about the trials and tribulations of an aging athlete trying to make ends meet while supporting his family, and you’d get some real emotion out of this guy. Aside from that, he’d be great in supporting roles, adding levity and natural charisma to virtually any ensemble.
8. Joanna J?drzejczyk
Referred to affectionately by her fan base as Joanna “Champion” on account of her difficult-to-pronounce last name – and her actual UFC belt – Joanna J?drzejczyk is frankly one of the most pleasant surprises to come out of the MMA world in some time. Not only does she rival Rousey on the badass scale inside the cage, she’s got undeniable and surprising levels of charm outside.
J?drzejczyk already looks like she was ripped straight from a Polish rap video, and while she certainly looks the part of a Polish gangster, this rough exterior covers up an adorable sense of trollish humor that can be witnessed in many of her pre and post-fight interviews. J?drzejczyk virtually bathes in self-confidence, which is probably the reason why nobody bothers to style-check her when she wears overalls to a press conference; it just sort of works.
J?drzejczyk has a thick accent, so casting her in leading roles in the U.S. would be a challenge, but it also lends credence to her badass persona, and she’d be great in supporting roles. Combine her infectious personality with undeniable athleticism and you’ve got a potential star on the international market. You could put her on both sides of the law in a cop thriller or use her for amazing cameos in virtually anything else.
Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t refer you to an instance of her looking creepy as all hell, like a real-life, Polish and female version of Gollum when she wants to be. What the hell! Throw some prosthetics on her and you’ve got a character actor to rival Doug Jones.
7. John Dodson
Some find John Dodson annoying. Others find his wacky sense of juvenile comedy endearing, but one thing he is not is forgettable.
For a 5’3″ fighter, Dodson possesses shocking power in his fists, having KO’d more opponents than anyone in the 125-pound division in the UFC. Adding insult to injury, he usually follows up said knockouts by sprinting toward the nearest section of cage and back flipping off of it.
Dodson’s athleticism, speed and immunity to gravitational forces would make him an incredible physical presence in any action movie, but where he would truly shine is in the realm of the action comedy. Dodson grew up idolizing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and while he’d probably be able to whoop all over them given his impressive gifts, he’s also one of the few personalities that could vie for the title of class clown with Michelangelo.
Acting is an industry that garners copious amounts of attention by definition, and if there’s one thing Dodson soaks up more than TMNT paraphernalia, it’s attention.
6. Pat Barry
Pat “HD” Barry is no longer in the UFC; recently, he’s been plying his trade in the world of professional kickboxing, but he’d still smoke 99.9% of grown-ass human males when it comes time to throw down. At 5’11” and roughly 240 lbs, Barry’s speed and athleticism rivals the aforementioned Dodson.
Not even kidding.
Add in the fact that he’s one of the funniest fighters on the planet; scratch that – he’s sitting alone atop the MMA comedy mountain – and you’ve got a breakout star on your hands.
Barry has a penchant for making a fool of himself and endearing himself to fans while he does so. The man has no shame. In short, he’s basically a more likable, athletic and extremely badass version of Kevin James. And that’s someone audiences the world over can get behind.
Perhaps a healthy serving of “HD” Barry is all Adam Sandler needs to revive his career from the dredges of Sony’s compost bin.
5. Michael Bisping
For a long time, Michael Bisping sat alone atop the UK MMA world, being the first British fighter to find success at the elite level in the UFC. In addition to his jolly old accent, however, Bisping has found enormous promotional success based on the fact that virtually every fight he’s in turns into a grudge match due to his inability to give a crap about his opponent’s feelings and also by having the heaviest chip a shoulder ever did bear.
Bisping has never worn or even fought for UFC gold, but he’s been in the world’s top promotion for nine years, and nobody is sick of him yet; in fact, he’s managed to come full circle and now stands proudly as one of the more loved and sympathetic figures in the sport due to his adopting a more humble attitude as of late and demonstrating an unwillingness to give up his dream of fighting for the belt at 36 years or age.
“The Count” already looks like an extra in a Guy Ritchie film, but why not give the guy a leading role? He’s comfortable in front of the camera, doing a lot of analyst work with Daniel Cormier and the boys on FOX, and he’s one of the funniest, saltiest characters in MMA. Fans love him or love to hate him, and he’d play an excellent everyman or a detestable and gutter-grubbing villain with ease.
He also cleans up real nice-like, so make him a rival MI6 agent to Daniel Craig and call it a day.
4. Matt Serra
He’s been retired for a few years, but Matt “The Terror” Serra will forever be immortalized in the annals of MMA history for his 2007 knockout of Georges St-Pierre, marking not only the second and final time GSP would be defeated in his pro career, but also notching what is widely considered to be the biggest upset in the history of the sport.
Serra went on to lose the rematch to GSP in 2008, but he’s never lost his touch with fans or media. He’s a Long Island boy, through and through, and he’s the definition of a veteran fighter, having competed since 1998, the so-called dark ages of MMA.
Serra is currently touring the country with business partner and fellow coach Ray Longo and UFC President Dana White as part of a reality show, and it’s probably going to be absolutely fantastic. This guy is a real character, extremely likable and down-to-earth.
He isn’t a spring chicken anymore, but Serra could be an amazing character actor in New York-based movies. He’s the type of guy that knocks out better fighters and knocks dead comedians with his brash sense of humor. Oh, and let’s not forget the fact that he’s a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt with the physique of an Italian nightclub bouncer.
Re-cast Serra in all of Bruce Willis’s current films in production and thank me later.
3. Conor McGregor
“The Notorious” is one of the most appropriate and almost mystical nicknames in the history of MMA, as Conor McGregor has taken the fight game by storm since bursting onto the U.S. scene in 2013. This kid just headlined his first Pay Per View event in July and reportedly quadrupled the number of buys his division’s reigning champion notched in his last outing.
There certainly is such a thing as the “It Factor,” and McGregor’s got it in spades. He’s stylish, confident, cocky, talks a lot of trash and backs all of it up inside the cage. But what sets him apart from the rest of the pack is his unbelievable charisma, which is the quality that would fold immediately into a movie career.
McGregor has the type of one-track, fanatical mind that would make him great at whatever he chose to do, and he’s already discussed his eventual desire to act. So far, he’s been too busy whooping ass to do much outside of Game of War, but whichever casting agency nabs his contract is going to earn a lot of money in the McGregor business.
There are very few public figures that can pull off cockiness as a likable and even desirable personality trait, and that’s something that could translate easily to the movie world. If you want someone in your movie that is truly unlike anyone to come before him, “The Notorious” is your man.
2. Jon Jones
Jon Jones is famous right now for all the wrong reasons: he’s failed drug tests for cocaine, been arrested for DUI on two occasions and broke a pregnant woman’s arm in a hit-and-run car crash earlier this year, the latter two incidents resulting in his being stripped of the UFC title he won at the tender – and unparalleled – age of 23.
Jones is not a well-liked figure in MMA, but he’s one of the few fighters who crosses over to a widespread, mainstream audience, whether it be through appearances on Sportscenter or in Reebok ads.
Interestingly, the aspect of Jones’s personality that most fight fans have a problem with would probably bring him immediate and long-term success in the movie world; he’s a chameleon. When Jones first came into the UFC, he played the part of a soft-spoken, humble and God-fearing man of the church; that all went out the window when footage leaked of an off-air segment between interviews where he and rival Daniel Cormier took to insulting and threatening each other when they thought nobody was looking.
Since his apparent – and apparently unintentional – heel turn in 2015, Jones has risen to new heights of popularity. His persona and abilities are reminiscent of the greats from other sports, such as Muhammad Ali and Michael Jordan, and his personal life is just as talked about, even if it’s for all the wrong reasons.
If Jones can clean up his act somewhat, he could not only return to rule the light heavyweight roost in the UFC, but he could probably take Hollywood by storm, playing anything his lizard-like personality desired, from cocky playboy to masochistic psychopath.
1. Michelle Waterson
Michelle “The Karate Hottie” Waterson isn’t even a major star in MMA as of yet, but she’s fresh off her first UFC victory and is poised for big things in and outside of the cage.
Waterson earned her nickname by horny photographers cataloging her for a Hooters photo shoot, but it turned out to embody her quite well. She’s undeniably attractive, charming, likable and – a trend on this particular list – whoops all kinds of ass.
Waterson has appeared in a few commercials even before her star truly started to rise in the UFC, and she may have the most star potential of anyone on the roster. Her fighting style is technical and flashy, and her toughness is only rivaled by her uncanny flexibility. This girl could be an action star to rival anyone in the game right now, and I can’t wait to see if she ever makes that leap to the big screen.
Search out a few clips from her fights and tell me she wouldn’t make an infinitely better Chun-Li than Kristin Kreuk.
Previously by Steven Kelliher