When I first became aware of MMA, I despised it, I thought it was dirty fighting. I grew up watching (and emulating) my big brother as he trained in Taekwondo, focusing on the beauty behind the form and power of traditional martial arts. Then I met Tim Kennedy, professional MMA fighter. In the years that passed from my first meeting with Kennedy, I myself have expanded my athleticism to include fighting techniques and have found myself immersed in the world of MMA in unexpected ways.
My inclusion into this world has not only changed my opinion on the sport, but has opened my eyes to the beauty that can be found in the sport. The new documentary by Vlad Yudin, The Hurt Business, is a brilliantly laid out film that shows the evolution of a sport that is misrepresented and misunderstood.
The Hurt Business, follows several fighters, including Rashad Evans and Sara McMann, and interviews a plethora of others as they navigate through training and their career steps in the professional fighters arena. No subject is off the table of discussion, allowing all the purity, and sometimes grueling, aspects of this sport to seep through the screen.
The feeling you get when watching his documentary isn’t a biased story, instead an evaluation of truths. The information is presented for you to absorb, to understand what is at the heart of the sport. The respect Yudin feels for this sport is palpable. He came into this world through a previous film, and his fascination is felt through the journey he takes the audience on.
Before the film gets too involved in the modern world of fighting, The Hurt Business does a wonderful job of setting up the history of the sport. The film begins with its origin in Ancient Greece, but spends time building the history of MMA through the Gracie’s influence. Through interviews and footage, Yudin explores the start of MMA as a true ultimate fighting competition.
The competition set up two contenders from different martial arts training to find a fighting champion. It wasn’t about finding out who was stronger, physically, but mentally. In the world of fighting, size does not always matter and this was the arena that proved it.
As the film continues to showcase the sport, the modern fighter becomes the center point of the story. The complexity of these athletes is displayed through little extravagance, allowing the simplicity of what is shown to highlight their tremendous athletic ability. For individuals who’s job is to be the biggest and strongest, their vulnerability and heart was a surprising addition to the film.
I had the opportunity to talk with him about his experiences during production, and it’s no wonder why there was trust between director and fighter. Yudin took to heart what the athletes go through and showed them the respect they deserve. The honesty about themselves as fighters, as humans in and out of the octagon, was heartbreaking. It forces you to face your own insecurities and internal fights we face every day.
The elephant in the room for some viewers might be the addition, and growing popularity, of female fighters. Once again, the respect Yudin has for this profession surpasses any marginalization. He talks with an air of impartiality when discussing the inclusion of women. Fighters are fighters, no matter what their gender. He was quick to point out their dedication to training and their ability is what is truly important in this regard.
Instead of focusing on the gender of the fighter, Yudin and The Hurt Business focus on the technique. The training regimen these athletes execute on a daily basis is captivating. They are constantly pushing their bodies to their limits. With the attention to detail regarding training, the fighters at the center of the film become part of the family. You find yourself rooting for their every move.
With the family formation solidified and the vulnerability established, the examination turns to the dark side. You can’t dive fully into a field, showcasing all the glitz and sport of something without spending equal time showing the horrors it will cause. This is not an easy sport to participate in, and you have to be damn sure you are ready for the consequences if you do.
As much as the honor and physical refinement of these athletes is explored, so are the effects of the injuries sustained. In such a brutal sport, physical trauma is an undesirable yet necessary evil. Yudin does not shy away from the abuse the body goes through as a result of the fights. It’s an important part of this world, and one even in it’s darkest days is handled with respect. The unbiased format of the documentary lets the viewer decide what side of the brutality argument they fall.
In the end, though, The Hurt Business is a compelling film about the specialized sport of MMA. Yudin explores his fascination with an eye for learning and unbridled respect, opening up a secret world for others to engage in. After watching this film, I feel more connected to this profession then I have before, and am grateful I was able to expand my knowledge of its narrative. In true blending of paths fashion, I recently found out that Kennedy will be fighting Evans in UFC 205, and because of this film Evans is not just another dirty fighter in a competition with a friend.
Check your local listings for times and channels to view The Hurt Business in your area.
Written by Lisa Mejia
Images provided by Anderson Group PR