Freelance: Ranking the Best MMA Fighters Turned Actors Ever


Perhaps more than any other sport, combat athletes seem to eventually make a transition to the silver screens of Hollywood (largely because they are action athletes and there has been an action genre in film for quite some time.) All competitors are exceptionally driven and competitive, especially fighters. So, which ones are considered the best at the box office? Have a look at the list below!

Note: This list excludes solely martial arts-based films

A Fatal Four

Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell

This UFC Hall of Fame member may be mostly a television actor with a series of one-offs to his credit, but what’s important is that as far as acting and the UFC mingling is concerned, Liddell was Ronda Rousey before there was a Rousey to speak of.

In MMA

With his signature “Iceman” fight trunks, tattoos, and trademark mohawk haircut (the result of a Slayer concert), he had the look of an MMA fighter that was ready to be catapulted into the mainstream consciousness for the first time. Oh, and his 22 victories (16 by knockout) that span legendary rivalries opposite “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” Tito Ortiz and Randy “The Natural” Couture helped captivate audiences too.

The former UFC light heavyweight (205-pound) champion had four successful title defenses. Along with his HOF status, Liddell also still has the most victories in both his division and overall UFC history with 20.

In Film

While nothing in his acting resume may look spectacular, part of any successful career is longevity and Liddell is still on screens after initially appearing in 1981’s The Postman Always Rings Twice as a child. He appeared in 2001’s How High around the time of both the UFC’s and his own “boom period.”

The icon of John Hackleman’s “The Pit” training center has most notably appeared in Workaholics, Kick-A** 2, Hawaii Five-O (2011), Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior, and Bones.

Georges “Rush” St-Pierre

In Film/MMA

At one time considered the single best pound-for-pound fighter, GSP has the most welterweight (170-pound) title defenses with nine in one run before a second stint with the belt, the second most overall wins in UFC history with 19, and so much more.

While he has only graced the silver screen once in a non-martial arts-based picture, what’s most impressive is that it was for 2014’s Marvel film, Captain America: The Winter Soldier when the only fighter the world was really talking about was R3.

After a hiatus of over three years, GSP has returned to MMA and the UFC for “money fights” that also include an upcoming move to middleweight (185 pounds) for the first time as he’ll challenge Michael “The Count” Bisping at a date and venue to be determined.

With possibly only a handful of names in mind when it comes to stepping inside the cage for a payday and with his Cap’ film grossing a total $714,264,267 (along with an Academy Award nomination,) could more screen time be in the future of St. Isadore, Quebec’s greatest export?

We’ll see.

“Rowdy” Ronda Rousey (Retirement Pending)

In MMA

We all know this pioneer’s credentials: 12 shockingly fast consecutive victories, six successful title defenses, being the record holder for the fastest finish in a UFC title fight (16 seconds) just before “Notorious” Conor McGregor bested her entry with a 13-second one of his one, she had a total career fight time of just under a half-hour during her streak, etc….

While the California blonde has not officially retired from MMA, UFC President Dana White does not expect to see her back in his octagon. She also released a statement to the media through ESPN following her UFC 207 title fight loss to Amanda “The Lioness” Nunes in December of 2016 (the second consecutive and fastest defeat of her career at just 48 seconds.)

Rousey said, “I want to say thank you to all of my fans who have been there for me in not only the greatest moments but in the most difficult ones. Words cannot convey how much your love and support means to me.

Returning to not just fighting, but winning, was my entire focus this past year. However, sometimes — even when you prepare and give everything you have and want something so badly — it doesn’t work how you planned. I take pride in seeing how far the women’s division has come in the UFC and commend all the other women who have been part of making this possible, including Amanda.

I need to take some time to reflect and think about the future. Thank you for believing in me and understanding.”

In Film

Rousey has yet to really be tested in her new art form, still portraying the general “a**-kicker” role that made her famous in the first place. This is common with many in combat sports and also extends to pro wrestlers. However, she did test her comedy chops on an episode of Comedy Central’s Drunk History TV series.

Her most high-profile films to date include: The Expendables 3 (alongside UFC legend Randy Couture), Furious 7 (part of the Fast and Furious franchise), and Entourage. The projects made $214.6 million, $1.515 billion, and 49.3 million respectively. Although, Furious 7 is the only one of those three not to be considered a flop.

Since the time Rousey made her statement after UFC 207, she confirmed her engagement to fellow UFC fighter, Travis “Hapa” Browne and has been filming for the show Blindspot. The program will air her episode on May 3.

Gina “Conviction” Carano (Retired)

One of, if not the original women’s MMA pioneers, Carano is arguably the most successful actor or actress on this list for one simple fact: She played the lead character in a movie that did well despite not winning any major awards.

In MMA

The 35-year-old has done remarkably better in acting than in MMA as it turns out. As a fighter, Carano went 7-1 overall. She fought on a couple of smaller shows before bouncing between EliteXC and Strikeforce (both of which are now out of business, although Strikeforce was more of a competitor to the UFC.) The striker in Carano finished three of her fights by KO/TKO with one win by submission before losing to Rousey’s rival, Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino.

Justino would finish Carano with strikes just inside of five minutes in Carano’s lone title fight for the Strikeforce women’s featherweight (145-pound) championship. She would retire after the bout with Justino and shift her focus to being an actress full-time.

In Film/ Haywire Plot

Carano starred in 2011’s Haywire along with an almost all-male cast that includes: Ewan McGregor, Bill Paxton, Channing Tatum, Antonio Banderas, and Michael Douglas.

Former Marine Mallory Kane (Carano) is now working for a private company performing “Black-Ops” missions. Kane is introduced following an attack at a diner committed by Tatum’s character, Aaron. Over the course of the film, Kane sets free a previously captive journalist that had uncovered private criminal information related to her employer. A man simply referred to as Kenneth (McGregor) heads that firm and betrayal/conspiracy ensue.

Over its total life time at the box office, this action-thriller netted $33,372,606 worldwide. However, what is more important is that this was the first film to have a female MMA fighter leading a project (with a cast of established veterans at that!) She performs in Fast and Furious 6 as well.

Carano also played the character of Angel Dust in Marvel’s Deadpool. After much love from die-hard fans of both Marvel in general and of “The Merc with a Mouth”, the film had a total gross of $783,112,979. Deadpool 2: No Good Deed is set for release next year.

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