“The Hurt Business” was held up (mostly by the film’s own PR/social media team) as THE mixed martial arts documentary—and in some ways they were correct— but overall, did it live up to the billing?
The first point of success for this piece of cinematic work is that it looks at the sport of MMA as a whole in addition to the UFC by featuring Bellator MMA and One Championship. The film also gets a fair amount of clout because of the reputation of the producers–the people behind “Bowling for Columbine,” “Fahrenheit 9/11” and “Generation Iron”–and the fact they took two years to finish the film and deliberately worked with fighters from all over.
*Bonus Point* For me, Kevin Costner gets a 5/5 as the narrator.
Unfortunately, the opening 10+ minutes is pretty textbook stuff you learn even as a slightly-above-casual UFC/MMA fan: “The sport took off in the 1990s when the Gracie family decided to finally answer which martial art was supreme, blah, blah, evolution, blah, blah, cut to present day with the UFC as the top-dog promotion.” This isn’t really a fault of this documentary but is just due to the fact that there have been books and other documentaries that have told the same story before and this is meant for a general audience’s consumption.
The film then splinters off into a number of different storylines:
The return of the injured “Suga'” Rashad Evans (who at the time was facing possible retirement) and the life of former fighter Michael “Joker” Guymon. Guymon had to leave the sport due to mental health issues and lost the gym he owned. This shows the difficulty of being a fighter for basically your entire adult life and not really having an exit strategy while also showing a need to take better care of our athletes and finding ways to improve safety even though this is a job where you get punched in the face.
MMA’s Mike Tyson—Jon “Bones” Jones
If you’re on HalfGuarded and in our MMA section, then you know the sport and the Jones stories. Need I say more? Although it was funny in a dark manner of speaking to hear Jones speak about how his religious family wasn’t initially behind his career choice for fear of it changing him as a person, making him arrogant, etc…laugh amongst your friends.)
Insert some discussion about partying, drinking, feeling untouchable, etc… and THB will catch you up to Jones’ UFC 200 failed drug test and suspension.
Women in MMA
This part of the film bothered me quite a bit. At the time this was made, the WMMA portion was still heavily centered around Ronda Rousey (not my issue.) Cut to “Uncle Creepy” Ian McCall sharing his thoughts on female fighting: “I think it’s gross.”
While I am a Rousey fan, I am a fan of WMMA in general because it showcases that this sport is gaining ground in a big way when it comes to acceptance. Uneducated people will still see MMA as barbaric, but I feel that because people have their preconceived ideas about what is “womanly”, maybe they do just want to compete and maybe this is a real sport.
Ian: Flip society on its head for a moment and picture it as a matriarchy. What if you just wanted to compete but the ruling women had their thoughts about a man’s role in their world and that things should remain as they are simply because you have testicles? Seems unfair, right? You’d be upset, right? It’s that simple.
I’m not sure if McCall is in a relationship or not, but I think he’d feel differently if he were with a female fighter. Other than that, this film shows Rousey, Sara McMann, a little of Holly Holm, and others and finishes by catching fans up to speed when Holm KOed Rousey at UFC 193.
Overall, “The Hurt Business” gives decent background and tackles a number of issues to give casual fans a better understanding while also taking a pretty good snapshot of what the sport is like today (minus union issues and a few title changes.) If you are a hardcore fan like me, this documentary probably won’t live up to the hype or your expectations as it doesn’t reveal anything about MMA that you didn’t already know.
However, when coupled with the UFC-centered “Fighting for a Generation: 20 Years of the UFC” to introduce someone to the sport, I’m pretty sure you’ll make a new fan out of the viewer.
Overall rating: 3.5/5
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