From the Cage to the Stage
Mixed martial artists are punching and kicking their way onto today’s music video landscape.
Nearly three years ago, five-piece metal band Shadows Fall entered the Affliction Training Center in Seal Beach, California, and started rocking inside the facility’s cage. As fans surrounded the exterior of the cage, the band performed and recorded the video to their single “Still I Rise.” The clip also featured two mixed martial artists, one of which included then-former Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion Renato “Babalu” Sobral, who was shown submitting a fellow fighter via rear naked choke.
According to lead singer Brian Flair, the band’s primary objective was to combine the adrenaline-induced banger with the warrior attitude. “We wanted to have a video that showed the intensity of metal music, and it was a cool way to show the similarity of a circle pit and a cage fight—and have the fans right there with some of the fighters,” says Flair. “The guys at Affliction did a signature shirt for us, so it worked out to where they gave us their location, and we got to go to the facility and use some of their fi ghters. It was a cool way to combine the fi ght, their clothing, and our music.”
But they aren’t the only group associating the sport of MMA with their music. In 2010, Godsmack took a similar approach with their video “Cryin’ Like A Bitch.” The Massachusetts-based hard rock troupe shot a video while performing inside an abandoned warehouse and incorporated some of the UFC’s most memorable fights into the clip.
Front man Sully Erna even got an assist from Dana White, who gave the band full access to the organization’s extensive library. Shots included a knockout from Rashad Evans, a submission from B.J. Penn, and the intense pre-fight stare-down (and consequent shove) between Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Wanderlei Silva from UFC 92.
Godsmack viewed the video treatment as a natural choice because the track was partially inspired by fi ghting. “The song sounded very big and tough, and a bit angry,” says Erna. “It’s kind of putting the finger in someone’s face to begin with. I felt we needed something that was rough and tough and intimidating, and what better sport than the MMA? So it made the most sense, and some of the best knockouts and submissions are from some of our favorite fighters who we showcased in the video.”
Fighting in music videos isn’t anything new. Just take a peak at Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.” However, there is something different happening with the connection between music and MMA. Shadows Fall and Godsmack are just two of a growing number of artists who are setting a trend of placing mixed martial artists into their music videos. While this is something relatively new in an era where music videos have less of a mainstream presence—compared to the golden days back in the ‘80s and ‘90s of the MTV generation—this is a welcoming sign that MMA is becoming more and more accepted within today’s music world.
Perhaps the first band to use a mixed martial artist in a music video was industrial metal group American Head Charge in 2004 for their clip “Cowards,” which showed a peculiar day in the life of former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Chuck Liddell (“The Iceman” would later appear in Mandy Moore’s “I Could Break Your Heart Any Day Of The Week”).
Since then, plenty of fighters have found themselves on set with various bands. Alternative rock group Chevelle enlisted Josh Koscheck for their workplace revenge-themed video for “I Get It.” Pop-punk collective New Found Glory shot a series of hilarious fictional fights for their single “Listen To Your Friends” with John McCarthy and Bas Rutten. Metal collective Sepultura brought out the Gracie Clan for the competition-friendly “Attitude.” Party rock duo LMFAO recruited UFC heavyweight contender Alistair Overeem for their wiggle-friendly clip “Sexy And I Know It.” Even M.C. Hammer jumped on the bandwagon by featuring Nate Marquardt, Brendan Schaub, and Eliot Marshall on “Better Run Run.”
Although there are more clips fl oating around, the truth is that most MMA-affi liated music videos have been produced over the past few years. Before that, it was very seldom that a video featured a mixed martial artist. With the sport gaining more steam and the UFC appearing on broadcast television, thanks to their blockbuster deal with FOX, there are more crossover opportunities to appear alongside artists in their clips—at least SkyBlu of LMFAO thinks so.
“I 100 percent believe that, because if you look at boxing and boxing superstars back in the day, Mike Tyson used to hang out with Tupac, and he was in a video [‘Second Round K.O.’] for Canibus,” SkyBlu says. “It’s a little different than NBA players who are hanging out with Jay-Z and stuff because MMA has become pop culture. It’s becoming a popular event, so I feel that it’s just gonna get stronger because these fi ghters are getting accepted.”
Several musicians, ranging from legends like Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine all the way to newer talents like I The Breather bassist Armand Jasari, follow the sport passionately and train in various disciplines. It’s commonplace for UFC competitors to attend concerts and even collaborate with certain artists on a project or a business idea. And now, that collaboration has carried over into the music video realm.
“Extreme sports, in general, have always been related to punk rock and metal,” says Flair. “Where there was skateboarding, snowboarding, or motocross, I think MMA has taken it even further. It would be silly to have a cheesy pop song in the background while dudes are just beating each other up, so I think it fi ts very well. Dudes in bands train now and are big fans, so I think that’s taken it to a different level. It just makes sense.”