Since becoming the fastest growing sport on the planet, you'd think we'd have some accurate representations of MMA in the realm of Hollywood. Unfortunately, not the case.
If you were to search, let's say ... Netflix, what you would find is a hodgepodge of low-budget, straight-to-DVD, D-list celebrity-filled flicks that inadequately utilize MMA as their backdrop. In other words, it's a dumpster fire and we as MMA fans have been forced to jump in head-first and accept that this is our only on-screen representation. FAIL.
Enter Kingdom. WIN.
Now, I am excluding the movie Warrior, which I thought was a phenomenal MMA movie, but that's because it had a good theater run, can't be found on Netflix and was a huge proponent as to why Kingdom was created.
Did you know MMA mastermind and coach of countless champions Greg Jackson was the fighting consultant on that film? Also, that dark-haired, intense Italian coach of Tom Hardy's character, isn't an actual MMA coach (fooled me); it's actor Frank Grillo, who took the momentum of Warrior to help get this great TV show made
Grillo took Greg Jackson with him and teamed up with longtime writer and executive producer Byron Balasco to bring us this critically acclaimed knockout known as Kingdom.
Kingdom utilizes the three elements MMA fans should enjoy: triumph, drama and great fights!
That's right, triumph!
For me, what initially drew me to this show was the type of fighters it chose to center its story on. This isn't a show about the glitz and glam of signing with the UFC, this is about that other 90 percent of the sport, who train by day and work some odd job by night, just to put it all on the line inside some converted bingo hall (getting compensated in beer), for the opportunity to gain that possible "W" on their record.
Don't get me wrong, I love me some UFC Embedded, watching fighters drive their nice cars, eat meals prepared by personal chefs, work out at state-of-the art facilities, but we are already witnessing the fruits of their labors. I want to see the journey! Who's going to enjoy Breaking Bad if it starts with Walter White as a drug kingpin!?
Kingdom does a fantastic job starting each fighter at the bottom of the MMA hill, whether they be eager to start their climb, or reluctant to give it one last final go.
Drama? You know you love it!
Anybody who trolls McGregor, screaming at him to "stop all the drama," are the same ones rushing to their computers to check on what he's tweeted next. I, however, am not afraid to admit that I love the stuff. Give me a long, brooding feud between Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones over two guys willing to just shake hands and fight, any day of the week!
Luckily for me (and you) Kingdom's characters fight battles both inside and outside of the cage.
The show centers around a dysfunctional family of fighters, the Kulinas. There's the father, Alvey, a former fighter who currently runs his own gym, "Navy Street,"played by previously mentioned acting-powerhouse Frank Grillo.
His eldest son, Jay, an absolute wild man who wants to continue to fight, but can't keep his head on straight (think Mayhem Miller... or don't), played by scene-stealer Jonathan Tucker.
His youngest son, Nate, played by Nick Jonas... yes ... that Nick Jonas. Now before you completely write off this show for casting a former Disney pop icon, you should not only witness this kid act, you should take a gander at his training videos. He's put in the work and it shows.
Then there is my favorite character (and will become yours), Ryan Wheeler, played by the multi-dimensional Matt Lauria, a former champion recently released from prison after doing four years for assault.
Ryan is trying to recapture his former glory and make amends. Now he's not a blood relative, but he is quickly becoming the son Alvey always wanted.
"So, it has triumph and drama, but so do tons of other shows, Dave!" -Internet Troll
True, but do other shows have tons of action-packed fights inside the cage, featuring and created by actual fighters? I don't think so.
Coach Jackson consults on the show to make sure it reflects properly the life of MMA fighters, while UFC veteran Joe "Daddy" Stevenson helps the stunt team choreograph riveting and realistic fights. So the show is in good hands – very good, seasoned hands. And for a special treat, if you start at season one, which you absolutely should, you'll spot tons of UFC faces, from featherweight Cub Swanson to "savage in a suit" Kenny Florian.
Now the reason you may be sleeping on this show could be due to the fact it's on Direct TV's Audience network, but no more excuses! Ask your ex's neighbor's dog-sitter whose HBO Go login you've been using to get their Uverse info as well and step into the cage with TV's one and only MMA drama.
I had the absolute privilege of seeing tonight's episode (Season 2B premiere) at the premiere in Hollywood and I will just say this, all the blood, sweat and tears that this cast and crew has been through to bring you the most authentic show about mixed martial arts has absolutely paid off and we the audience get to reap the benefits.
Dave scores this show a win by KO!
*The show is available exclusively on Audience Network, which can be seen on DIRECTV and AT&T U-Verse.