We need warriors. Deep in our blood, we long to hear the thud of fists on flesh and the crunch of broken bones. When the victor’s hand is raised we share the triumph – and the pain. It satisfies our primal urge to know: who’s the toughest? That question is answered definitively by the explosive sports phenomenon known as mixed martial arts. Over the last four decades, the MMA industry has evolved from fights in backyards and parking garages into a legitimate multibillion-dollar entertainment juggernaut. But the gritty, underground roots of MMA are hidden by Vegas glitz and billion-dollar hype. The real story of how MMA battled its way to worldwide dominance has never been told… until now.
UNCAGED: THE UNAUTHORIZED STORY OF MMA will tell the raw, untold story of the evolution of MMA through the fighters who influence it the most. Watch as they evolve from students of single disciplines into true mixed martial artists, fueling the growth of a sport and an industry. MMA is at the center of popular culture, from Washington’s moral crusade against violence in the 90s, to the internet boom and the growth of online communities. Modern-day gladiators like Randy Couture, Ronda Rousey, Ken Shamrock and Royce Gracie are world-class athletes and global celebrities, but their stories begin in smoky gyms and on crime-infested streets. Organized crime, porn and drugs lurk on the fringes of MMA culture, ready to snare victims. Only a select few warriors have the heart, the guts and the killer instinct to survive in this world – but those who do are unquestionably the toughest men and women on this planet.
UNCAGED: THE UNAUTHORIZED STORY OF MMA will focus on four very different fighters from very different backgrounds: living legend Randy Couture, female MMA icon Ronda Rousey, rising star Brian Ortega and street-fighting phenomenon Kimbo Slice. Each fighter represents a different time and a different approach to MMA. We will delve deep into their personal victories and losses outside the cage to paint intimate, complex portraits of the fighters who give their lives to MMA. As we weave their stories together, each episode will also single out other fighters who have had major impacts on MMA over the years, starting with Japanese wrestling icon Antonio Inoki, and his landmark 1976 match against Muhammad Ali – the first mixed martial arts bout to reach a global audience. As these fighters evolve, they push an underground culture into the global spotlight.
Mixed martial arts’ roots lie in fights that don’t take place on pay-per-view or in a massive Vegas arena. They happen in backyards, parking garages, and gyms. A 14-year-old judo student fights and defeats adults in Mexico. A future UFC Lightweight Champion wrestles a bear at nine years old. Champion college wrestlers hone their techniques in underground fight clubs. These fights exist only on grainy, blurry videotape, if recordings exist at all. UNCAGED:THE UNAUTHORIZED STORY OF MMA will bring these battles to life in hyperreal ultra-high-def, turning back-alley slugfests into epic confrontations. By using explosive high-speed cameras and 3D graphics, we will show how a choke applied by Rickson Gracie in a fight on Copacabana Beach is replicated by his brother Royce in the first UFC tournament a decade later.
In the history of MMA, there have been few bigger stars than Randy Couture. His personal evolution will form the spine of UNCAGED: THE UNAUTHORIZED STORY OF MMA. The child of a broken home who unexpectedly becomes a father at 19, Couture develops into a world-class wrestler as a soldier in the US Army. After narrowly missing out on the Olympics, Couture faces an uncertain future, until he discovers MMA. He has his first fight at the age of 33 and makes an immediate impact. A UFC Hall of Famer and six-time champion in two different weight classes, Couture is also a bestselling author, TV and movie star, and a respected coach of MMA champions through his Xtreme Couture gym. His involvement with this series as an executive producer and on-screen talent will give the show unbeatable credibility.
UNCAGED: THE UNAUTHORIZED STORY OF MMA will also have unparalleled access to the MMA industry through our partnership with Picture Lab Entertainment founders Jeremy Lappen and Nate Adams. Lappen has managed the careers of Randy Couture, Ken Shamrock, Bas Rutten and other MMA icons, and also promoted the most watched televised MMA fight of all time. Adams has produced and directed MMA live-events and other projects for Showtime, CBS and History. Between them, they know or have worked with every important figure in MMA, and they have access to hours and hours of never-before-seen footage of rare fights and interviews. With their participation, this series will be as raw and authentic as the fights themselves.
EPISODE 1: STRONG STYLE
Modern mixed martial artists like Brian Ortega are combat machines, trained and honed for any kind of fight. But the first MMA bouts pit different fighting styles against each other, like the 1976 spectacle between Muhammad Ali and Japanese pro-wrestling icon Antonio Inoki. Inoki’s “strong style” of wrestling, influenced by carnival catch wrestling and its lineage of legit traveling tough guys that spawned his trainer Gotch, evolves into the first MMA promotions in Japan. In America, two young athletes are dealing with personal tragedy. College wrestler Randy Couture loses his Olympic dream, and young Judo star Ronda Rousey loses her father. Both completely unaware of the MMA revolution that will change their lives.
EPISODE 2: PASSING GUARD
The first family of MMA, the Gracie clan use their seemingly unbeatable Brazilian jiu-jitsu to humiliate opponents on the streets and beaches of Rio. They spread the gospel of BJJ and the “Gracie Challenge” to California in the 1980s, culminating in the first Ultimate Fighting Championship. Royce Gracie’s victory establishes the dominance of BJJ and creates a cultural phenomenon. Brazilian jiu-jitsu will offer the young Brian Ortega a path out of a life of crime – but Kimbo Slice, homeless and living in his truck, may not have a way out.
EPISODE 3: THE LION’S DEN
The brash, musclebound shootfighter Ken Shamrock loses to Royce Gracie’s jiu-jitsu in the first UFC, but he emerges as MMA’s first star. His adopted foster brother Frank Shamrock, however, is the first real mixed martial artist. Ken puts Frank through hell at his gym, the Lion’s Den, but when they have a falling out, Frank sets out on his own and revolutionizes MMA by combining fighting styles. His innovations will pay dividends for Couture, barely getting by as a wrestling coach. When he sees a tape of an old college teammate in an MMA match, he sees an opportunity.
EPISODE 4: TAKEDOWN
Few fighters can defend against BJJ – but amateur wrestlers, led by former Olympian Mark Coleman, find weaknesses to exploit. Randy Couture, a one-time wrestling opponent of Coleman’s, integrates amateur grappling skills with kickboxing and dirty boxing from the clinch to become an unexpected champion and one of the biggest MMA stars of all time. But outside the cage, MMA is facing a fight for its very survival.
EPISODE 5: SHOOTING STARS
As MMA grows, it joins gangsta rap and violent video games as a target of politicians. John McCain leads a crusade to choke out MMA, and the sport starts to wither and die. It’s kept alive by fans on the internet, in the midst of its boom period – and in Japan, where imported Americans like Couture take on the dangerous Brazilians of Chute Boxe Academy, and homegrown stars like Kazushi Sakuraba, who brings pro-wrestling theatrics and storytelling to MMA. When MMA gets a second chance in America, thanks to new rules and new UFC owners, those same tactics, and huge stars like Couture, drag MMA into the spotlight of popular culture.
EPISODE 6: STREET FIGHTING MAN
Even as MMA goes mainstream, it keeps one foot in the underground. MMA is still illegal in New York, so the Underground Combat League fights in decrepit boxing gyms and mosque basements. In Florida, Kimbo Slice becomes an internet sensation thanks to his backyard beatdowns – and soon he’s in the main event of the most-watched MMA event in TV history. But as Slice rides street brawling to stardom, other fighters like Georges St. Pierre combine and refine techniques into true mixed martial arts. Teenage Brian Ortega, kicked out of school for fighting even as he trains under a Gracie, embodies both sides of MMA.
EPISODE 7: ROWDY
Women’s MMA is initially a sideshow. But Ronda Rousey, an Olympic medalist in judo and a student of Gene LeBell, makes women’s MMA the main event – and completes MMA’s ascent to global dominance. Her path to stardom is paved by fighters like Laura D’Auguste, a full-time nurse who starts practicing martial arts to protect herself from her abusive husband, and Gina Carano, who fights in the first major women’s MMA main event and makes the leap to Hollywood action star. Rousey takes the baton from them and blows open the doors for women’s MMA, creating opportunities for new stars like Rose Namajunas, who finds solace in martial arts as her family is torn apart by mental illness.
EPISODE 8: KNOCKOUT
Boxing never gets much respect in MMA. But that’s changing. Conor McGregor, the biggest MMA star of all time, gets his start as a boxer. Though Brian Ortega earns a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, boxing saves him from the streets and turns him into an undefeated combat artist. The new generation of fighters, like Ortega and Namajunas, grow up with mixed martial arts. Their training and conditioning rival those of any athlete in the world. They combine the best of every combat art into one ruthlessly efficient discipline known as MMA – and those who can master it are the toughest men and women in the world.