Jason Statham certainly moves like an MMA fighter in his movies, but does that guarantee success in the ring?
Long before he was Guy Ritchie’s go to man or the star of innumerable action flicks, Jason Statham was a legit athlete. Not in any form of combat though. Despite his martial arts know-how and hardman persona, Jason Statham got his start as a diver with Olympic ambitions.
A member of Britain’s National Swimming Squad for 12 years, Statham competed as a diver at the 1990 Commonwealth Games in Auckland, New Zealand. The future Deckard Shaw credited his time as a diver with teaching him the focus and discipline required to succeed in life. After working as both a model and a street seller, Statham secured a leading role in the film Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrells. He has since become one of the film industry’s most profitable action leads.
As a movie star, his films are renowned for their neatly choreographed fight scenes. Still incredibly athletic in his fifties, Statham has often trained in MMA with esteemed veterans of the sport such as MMA pioneer and former UFC heavyweight champion Bas Rutten.
So where does the cinematic toughness end and the real-life fighting prowess begin?
How well-conditioned was a prime Jason Statham?
Performing hundreds of sit-ups a day and spending endless time in the pool, Statham developed great core conditioning, endurance and agility as a diver. He’s also proficient in kickboxing, Karate and Wing Chun.
Kickboxing is a handy offensive tool in the octagon as it trains the upper and lower body to work in tandem when striking. This leads to more complex and dangerous combinations in which a fighter can attack the opponent’s upper and lower body in one go. Successful MMA fighters such as Henry Cejudo, Conor McGregor, Georges St-Pierre and Nick Diaz have also displayed how effective Karate can be for defense, explosiveness and creating an efficient fighting stance.
However, Wing Chun’s utility in the world of MMA is debatable. Designed for close-quarters hand-to-hand combat, Wing Chun pays little mind to defending takedown attempts. Furthermore, getting in close enough to an opponent for Wing Chun’s range to work would be ill-advised to say the least.
While Statham’s speed, cardio and flexibility would have been great assets in the cage, his martial arts experience would have hindered him. Compared to the expert-level training most professional fighters exhibit, Statham’s own MMA prowess would likely have come up a bit short.
Despite holding all of the key athletic tools for the trade, he would’ve been fighting a slightly uphill battle at the professional level in MMA.
So how well would Jason Statham have done in MMA?
At 5’10 and weighing in at a trim 78kg or thereabouts for his films, the lean and mean Statham would’ve likely fought in the middleweight division. There, his reach, size and strength would all match up nicely with most of his peers.
Statham’s cinematic career has revealed his charisma, intensity and even comic timing. With this in mind, it’s safe to say he would’ve had a good knack for selling his fights to the public and talking up a storm at press conferences.
That being said, his performances in the octagon would’ve likely been hit and miss. The most glaring issue of all is his lack of wrestling experience. With most of his MMA training coming in very striking-oriented forms, his defense against wrestling would’ve been his Achilles heel. While Statham has received training in BJJ, his inexperience with stand-up grappling would’ve been a huge issue when fighting seasoned wrestlers.
A prime and more extensively trained Statham could’ve held his own and picked up a good deal of wins against the journeymen of the division. However, his chances against the top dogs would’ve been slim, rendering him a likely very popular MMA fighter slightly out of reach of the gold.
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