The 10 Best UFC Documentaries

Here are 10 documentaries to help newer fans learn the history of the UFC

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The UFC has been around for nearly 27 years. It is considered by many to be the top promotion in the sport of mixed martial arts. While it is broadcast on ESPN and the UFC brand is a household name, that wasn't always the case.


The UFC had a long, rough road to becoming the $4 billion MMA behemoth that it is and there's a lot of history to look back on. Fortunately, there have been many documentaries made along the way to keep a record of the UFC and the sport of MMA. 


Here are 10 you may want to check out if you're new to MMA:

1. ‘Smashing Machine: The Life and Times of Extreme Fighter Mark Kerr’ (2002)

This film focuses on Mark Kerr and UFC Hall of Famer Mark Coleman. While the UFC is only mentioned in the beginning when looking at the careers of both men, it does show another side of the sport that was likely missed by newer fans. Coincidentally, Duane “The Rock” Johnson announced before the weigh-ins of UFC 244 that he will be producing a film on Kerr. With the UFC’s Hollywood connections, don’t be surprised if they heavily promote the film. Watch this before the dramatized version gets made.


2. ‘Once I Was a Champion’ (2011)

This documentary focuses on the life of Evan Tanner. Tanner was a former UFC Middleweight champion who had a unique journey in MMA before his untimely death in 2008. The film features interviews with friends and training partners of Tanner who talk about how they remember him and what made him unique. An interesting note on Tanner, he was self-taught before making his way to a serious MMA gym and he did pretty well with the knowledge he gained on his own.


3. ‘The Hurt Business’ (2016)

This documentary will serve future MMA fans well. It was down in the same year the UFC sold for $4 billion and the ban on the sport of MMA was lifted in New York State. It was released in September of 2016, and the UFC made its first trip to Madison Square Garden that following November.


4. ‘UFC Chronicles: Love, Death and Prizefighting’ (2020)

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UFC Fight Pass is the UFC’s longtime streaming service. The entire UFC library is on the service but they produce some original content and the premiere of UFC Chronicles on the service features a look at Josh Samman who was a fighter with a heart that may have been too big for him to deal with. The story is both tragic and beautiful, but it is worth watching to see inside the life of a fighter like Samman.


5. ‘Fightlore on UFC Fight Pass’ (2020)

Animation can make history fun and Fightlore serves as the UFC animated mini-doc series that animates some of the best stories that have followed the UFC since it has been around. So far, there is a story about a fight in a hospital, how Bruce Buffer met his brother and the legendary Kimbo Slice.


6. ‘Through My Father's Eyes: The Ronda Rousey Story’ (2016)

Oddly enough, this documentary was released when Rousey hung up her MMA gloves to pursue film and professional wrestling. It features interviews with her, her mother, and training partners about her career and the path she carved for women to come into the UFC. Some fans might not like the way she left the sport, but watching this serves as a good recap of what she built in it.


7. ‘Conor McGregor Notorious’ (2017)

In a recent press conference, UFC President Dana White said that McGregor is one of the athletes that have made promoting UFC events fun for him. McGregor fought his way up from regional promotions in Ireland to end up in the UFC. The film was shot over a four-year period and focuses on his rise in the UFC.


8. ‘Fighting for a Generation: 20 years of the UFC’ (2013)

The UFC is working on its third decade of putting on events but it was not easy to get to where they are. This documentary serves as a great jumping-off point for recent fans that might be wondering what they missed if they just started following the UFC.


9. ‘Fight Life’ (2012)

Appropriately named, this documentary follows the lives of many fighters that are well known because of their longevity in the sport and the era they fought in. UFC fighters like Chuck Liddell, Jake Shields, Nick Diaz, and Gilbert Melendez are only a few that make an appearance in this film. This not only shows the early struggles of the sport of MMA but the lives of fighters both inside and out of the cage. Fighter pay, which has come up a lot over the years is also focused on in this film and has been coming up a lot recently.


10. ‘Anderson Silva: Like Water’ (2011)

The longest-reigning UFC champion, Anderson Silva of course would have a film made about him. Silva won the middleweight title in 2006 from Rich Franklin and remained champion until 2013 when he lost to Chris Weidman at UFC 162. This film documents Silva in his prime and features some of his most memorable bouts and greatest rivalry, Chael Sonnen. At 45 years-old, Silva will likely hang up the gloves soon so this film is worth a watch. 

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