Unlike most of us, Bellator light heavyweight Phil Davis is a guy who makes his living punching, kicking, and choking people brave enough to step into the cage with him. Like many of us, however, Davis also happens to be something of a film buff when he's off the clock, and has some pretty strong opinions when it comes to movies that dwell in his world, the world of combat sports.
So when we asked "Mr. Wonderful" to list his Top-5 favorite fight films ever, you best believe that he came prepared.
An obvious selection for any fight film aficionado, 1989's Kickboxer was more-or-less the bloodier, grittier cousin of Bloodsport that gave America a heaping second helping of action star Jean-Claude Van Damme. It's considered such a classic of the genre that it recently received a modern reboot that brought back Van Damme and added the likes of pro wrestler Dave Bautista and former welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre to its cast.
For Davis, the movie's greatness can be summed up by one moment in particular: the "epic" final fight scene wherein JCVD's character (Kurt Sloane) proceeds to kick the film's main antagonist (Tong Po) in the face nine consecutive times. Thank God this film didn't star Mirko "Cro Cop," or I'm fairly certain that the actor portraying Tong Po would've likely meet his untimely end while filming that scene.
What happens when you mix an MMA movie with a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer? Well, you get 2008's Redbelt, a starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Randy Couture, and Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor himself, Tim Allen. Easily one of the more overlooked films on the list, Redbelt explores the more philosophical side of mixed martial arts and its teachings of self-empowerment, which should probably be expected when a writer/director the level of David Mamet is involved (or Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor, for that matter).
3. The Karate Kid
Fret not, Mr. Davis is definitely not referring to the 2010 version of this action classic (aka "That Jaden Smith bullcrap"). He's talking about the 1984 O.G. version starring Ralph Macchio, Pat Morita as Mr. Miyagi, and those evil sonsabitches at the Cobra Kai gym.
The Karate Kid needs no introduction, really. It was a massive hit with both moviegoers and critics (even earning Morita an Academy Award nomination) in its day, and continues to inspire kids across the country to get involved with martial arts (for the purposes of starting a gym war) to this day. It's also a movie so legendary, so gripping, and so undeniably plausible that it inspired a technique that is still being used to devastating effect in the cage and ring: the Crane Kick.
Another must-see for fight and film fans alike, 1988's Bloodsport introduced the world to Jean-Claude Van Damme (and arguably remains his magnum opus), tournament-style underground fighting, and perhaps most importantly, the effectiveness of slow motion in fight choreography. Would you believe it if I said it was getting a remake that no one either wants or asked for? Because it is!
"After watching this movie recently, I decided that all my fights should be played in slow motion," says Davis. "I mean, it just makes everything look cooler." To which I say, you're Jean-Claude Van Damme right it does! (I'm so sorry.)
1. The entire Rocky franchise
It may seem like cheating to give seven movies the number-1 spot on this list of favorite fight movies, and that's because it is.
"If you don't like Rocky, we can't be friends, we can't date, and your friends can't be friends with mine" says Davis, as if that is some kind of threat from a man too blind to see that Rocky IV is clearly the superior entry in the franchise.