When Never Back Down was released in 2008 it marked a seminal moment in MMA’s journey from the underground to the mainstream. The fact that Hollywood was willing to invest $20 million in this movie signaled that the sport had finally arrived and was well and truly here to stay.
2008 was a vintage year for MMA with all time greats like BJ Penn, Georges St Pierre and Anderson Silva dominating their respective divisions with a series of wins. It was the year WWE star Brock Lesnar put pen to paper on a UFC contract and went on to win the heavyweight title.
In the space of six weeks at the end of 2008 UFC PPV cards broke the one million buy mark not once, but twice. It’s an era of MMA which carries fond memories for many fight fans but while the likes of Penn, St Pierre, Silva and Lesnar have long since secured their place in the sport’s history the contribution of Never Back Down should not be entirely overlooked.
Never Back Down took in excess of $40 million USD at the box office and its success probably paved the way for several subsequent MMA movies. Most notable of all was Fighting which came out the following year and starred Hollywood heavyweights Channing Tatum and Terrence Howard as well as Cung Le.
While Never Back Down clearly has a place in MMA history it might surprise a few fight fans to learn that the franchise is still going strong. A sequel was released direct to DVD in 2008 and starred Todd Duffee while there was also a cameo appearance from ‘Big’ John McCarthy made a cameo.
Filming is currently underway in Bangkok for the third installment of the Never Back Down trilogy. While the movie will not be released with anything like the same level of fanfare as the original it does star current UFC heavyweight Josh Barnett and will be directed by Michael Jai White.
Filming got underway a few weeks ago in Bangkok where a set has been specifically constructed in order to resemble an MMA gym. The cast also includes Thai actress Jeeja Yanin while Oliver Coste, who has refereed at events in Asia like ONE Championship, Full Metal Dojo and Malaysian Invasion will also be involved.
Thailand has played host to some classic martial arts movies over the years such as Kickboxer and Ong Bak. It is a little known fact that the former has spawned four sequels so far with another one currently in the production stage.
Whether Never Back Down 3 will go down as one of the greatest action moves of all time (like the original Kickboxer) or sink without a trace (like Kickboxer 5: ‘The Redemption’) remains to be seen. Any MMA fans desperate to see the sport on the big screen again will get to see for themselves when it is released in approximately 6 months time.
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