Thousands of actors portray “tough guy” characters, but only a few possess the discipline and technique to actually stand toe-to-toe with a legit mixed martial artist. At FIGHT!, we’ve watched enough films to know which thespians could step into the cage without being maimed. They might not necessarily become champions, but here are 10 actors who could hold their own in a sanctioned pro fight … excluding Chuck Norris (supposedly, his tears can cure cancer).
10. RYAN REYNOLDS
Though known for his comedic roles in Van Wilder and Waiting…, it was 2004’s Blade: Trinity that transformed Reynolds into an action star. Four months before the movie was shot, Reynolds dieted, gained 20 pounds of muscle, and underwent intense training regimens in boxing and martial arts to prepare him for the physically demanding role. While that isn’t enough to guarantee MMA success, Reynolds is only 33 years old and has the basic fundamentals to improve.
9. WESLEY SNIPES
If Herschel Walker can pursue MMA, there isn’t any reason why Snipes can’t. The actor has trained in an assortment of disciplines, including Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, kung fu, and Capoeira. Most importantly, Snipes is the proud owner of a 5th-dan black belt in Shotokan, and as Lyoto Machida has shown, it’s damn near difficult to land a strike on a Shotokan black belt. Although a proposed 2005 fight with Joe Rogan fell through, Snipes could still do some damage.
8. SEAN PATRICK FLANERY
A black belt under Renzo Gracie prodigy and Hollywood BJJ business partner Shawn Williams, this Boondock Saints star has been immersed in the martial arts since childhood. While he has studied a plethora of different styles in the past and currently dabbles in Muy Thai, Flanery absolutely loves to compete. In fact, he won a handful of jiu-jitsu tournaments in 2002 and 2003. Though he has no intentions of becoming The Ultimate Fighter, the skill set is there.
7. JEAN-CLAUDE VAN DAMME
Beginning his martial arts studies at age 12 and competing regularly in “full-contact promotions,” the Belgian was one of the best mixed martial artists in the 70’s and 80’s before the sport actually had a name. Possessing a hybrid of karate, kickboxing, Muy Thai, Shotokan, and tae kwon doe, Van Damme used his pedigree to put on memorial performances in movies such as Bloodsport and Universal Soldiers. Although competing against today’s modern day gladiators could be detrimental to his health, we’re sure he still has a little pep in his step.
6. JOHNNY STRONG
When Strong isn’t fronting his Atlantic Records rock band Operator or playing roles in flicks such as Black Hawk Down, Sinners And Saints, and The Fast And The Furious, he spends his time preparing for a dream bout with UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva. A brown belt in BJJ with judo experience and a passion for punching people in the face, Strong—who is in his early 30’s—is young enough to actually have a successful MMA run.
5. JOE ROGAN
He hosted Fear Factor, was a regular on News Radio, and nowadays, when he isn’t telling jokes, Rogan analyzes fights as the UFC’s color commentator. But don’t get it twisted, he can fight as well. A black belt in tae kwon do and brown belt under the 10th Planet BJJ system, his instructor Eddie Bravo said in 2008 that Rogan could go “straight to 170 and fuck up a lot of dudes.” Now that’s a co-sign Carlos Mencia will never get.
4. JACKIE CHAN
If Bruce Lee is the “Godfather of MMA,” then Jackie Chan was blessed with greatness in the early 70’s as he worked alongside Lee in Fist Of Fury and Enter The Dragon. Chan achieved his own acclaim as an international movie actor who flashed his background in Shaolin Kung-Fu, tae kwon do, and hapkido. Though a fight against fellow Chinese actor Jet Li would truly be a dream match, the 55-year-old Chan could possibly put the hurtin’ on a few featherweights.
3. JET LI
In ten words or less: the younger, lighter, faster version of Jackie Chan.
2. TONY JAA
The 33-year-old has done his fair share of stunt work and has a sound background in kung fu, but he demonstrated his speed and skill in Ong-Bak: Muy Thai Warrior, where he spent a solid year learning Muay Boran—the fighting style that Muy Thai derived from. If Jaa were to pursue MMA, he could do fairly well. After all, he spends his free time beating up elephants, so defeating humans shouldn’t be a problem.
1. JASON DAVID FRANK
Best known for his role as Tommy Oliver in the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (the green and, later, white ranger), Frank considers himself a martial artist first and an actor second. The 36-year-old is a 6th degree black belt, trains diligently in Muay Thai and BJJ, and was inducted in the World Karate Union Hall Of Fame in 2003. Oh, and he also keeps his eye on MMA, having cornered Melvin Guillard and founded the clothing line Jesus Didn’t Tap. With serious aspirations of competing in MMA, Frank has all the tools of making his future debut an extremely successful one.