MMA's largest promotion, the UFC, has no shortage of talent.
To most fans of the fight business, these athletes will be recognizable in some fashion, even if they do not readily know of the fighter's prior combat sports experience. To the outside world, unless that fighter is named Ronda Rousey or Conor McGregor, it is difficult to become familiar with talent who have not gone above and beyond what their contract stipulates.
The best thing about the fight business though, is that it is rife with opportunity. The more a fighter accrues W's in their record, the more they are granted various incentives. From more appearances in highly-stacked cards, to more PPV points, the rewards can truly be limitless if they desire. To further their mainstream recognition, fighters may even be granted the opportunity to appear in a big-budget film. Their role may be minor enough, to the point of being overlooked, but their presence has surely been established, in their path to becoming a combat sport household name.
Although the highly-debatable 'it' factor may be reserved for a small pool of fighters, these MMA fighters cemented their legacy by branching out of the Octagon. Whether or not moviegoers recognized them is besides the point, as these athletes appearing on the big screen solidified their status as more than just a cage fighter...
8. Bas Rutten (Here Comes The Boom)
Some were initially skeptical about comedic actor Kevin James appearing in a mixed martial arts and comedy-centric film. In order to give it some authenticity, production brought in Bas Rutten, veteran of Japanese-based MMA promotion Pancrase, to star alongside him.
Rutten was cast as Niko, the trainer of Jame's character in the film. The story was generally premised on the idea of a high school teacher, bored with the present standing of his life, training to become an MMA fighter to raise funds for his failing music program. In many of Jame's films, his charisma and comedic timing has allowed him to shine, where his performances have become well-received, even if the movies themselves were not. Which is why it came as a pleasant surprise in that, not only did Rutten bring his acting A-game, but some having argued that he outshone James entirely.
Rutten was able to naturally make his Niko character likeable, with over-the-top nuances coupled with the chemistry he shared with James. This is before even beginning to mention his comedic capabilities, where his singing and yoga-teaching moments were genuinely laugh out loud.
He may have only had two bouts in the UFC, but El Guapo demonstrably made his other talents known in Here Comes The Boom. If casual MMA fans and moviegoers didn't know of him prior, they were definitely googling Niko after viewing the film.