Occasionally athletes make cameos on the big screen. Who can forget Dan Marino in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective or Reggie Jackson trying to kill that bitch-ass queen in The Naked Gun? But when has a world class athlete quit his sport, mid-season in the middle of his athletic prime, to take a shot at seeing his name in lights?
The answer is Jim Brown. Most of you have no idea who that is. That’s because it happened in 1967. Forty-two years ago! Brown was filiming the all-time classic war movie The Dirty Dozen and said to hell with getting hit by Dick Buktus. He got to make out with Raquel Welch for the cameras, Hollywood’s first interracial love scene, so it was probably all worth it, even if his career was a complete bust.
That would never happen today in football, baseball, or any other mainstream sport. Instead of being paid peanuts, or in dashikis, Brown would be a multi-millionaire. He might flirt with acting after his career was through, but he certainly wouldn’t quit in his prime to make movies. You won’t see Adrian Peterson give it all up to star with Liam Neeson in a remake of the 1980’s goofball A-Team television show. But you will see Quinton “Rampage” Jackson throw away three months of promotional television just filmed for The Ultimate Fighter, cancelling his highly anticipated fight with Rashad Evans to play B.A. Baracus. You saw Randy Couture, in his mid-40’s give away precious time to star in what will likely be another Sylvester Stallone flop. And you will see Gina Carano eschew a comeback fight after her loss to Cyborg Santos in favor of trying to become the next Cynthia Rothrock.
What this shows is just how quickly Hollywood is noticing MMA. They’ve been looking to cash in on this cultural headwind for quite awhile. Three movies have hit theatres attempting to be Karate Kid for a new generation. None quite worked. Now producers in Hollywood are tapping right into the source: the fighters themselves. Quinton Jackson is an edgy choice to play B.A. Baracus. Five years ago that role goes to a slightly past his prime rapper like The Game or 50 Cent. Today, MMA is what is hot.
While fighter’s celebrity status has skyrocketed, their paychecks have not. That’s why Rampage Jackson feels comfortable throwing away a fight in the middle of his prime. The movie pays more than Dana White does. For the UFC, that’s not a good feeling.