Are you wondering about the best UFC/MMA documentaries of all time?
In this article, we’ll look at the 15 best UFC/MMA documentaries of all time plus some information on what they’re about.
- Best UFC/MMA Documentaries Ranked
- 1. The Smashing Machine: Mark Kerr (2002)
- 2. Once I Was a Champion (2011)
- 3. Fightville (2011)
- 4. Jens Pulver: Driven (2011)
- 5. Such Great Heights (2012)
- 6. Takedown: The DNA of GSP (2014)
- 7. Fighting for a Generation: 20 Years of the UFC (2013)
- 8. Fighting in the Age of Loneliness (2018)
- 9. Choke (1999)
- 10. Conor McGregor: Notorious (2017)
- 11. Pride Decade
- 12. Rites of Passage: The Rebirth of Combat Sports (2001)
- 13. The Hurt Business (2016)
- 14. Bisping (2021)
- 15. Like Water (2011)
Best UFC/MMA Documentaries Ranked
Here are the best UFC/MMA documentaries, ranked starting with the best.
1. The Smashing Machine: Mark Kerr (2002)
>IMDB Rating: 7.7
The Smashing Machine documents the journey of one of the earliest MMA pioneers, Mark Kerr, who helped popularize the UFC and Pride. It’s an amazing MMA documentary because it gives an in-depth behind-the-scenes look into an elite fighter’s career and personal life.
Mark shares a lot, such as how he started MMA fighting for money because he was completely broke, how his pre-fight nerves stop him from drinking water or eating, but how the nerves turn to focus when in the ring as it becomes kill or be killed.
The Smashing Machine also shows the early stages of MMA, when knees/kicks to the face of a downed opponent, headbutts, eye pokes, digging open wounds, and other street-like techniques were commonly used to win.
The documentary is amazing at including the sound of the up-close power of strikes and their impact. It makes more real what fighters have to put themselves through mentally and physically.
Mark says at one point he was injecting needles in his arms 10 times a day, and taking painkillers to mask injuries sustained through training and fighting because he couldn’t afford to miss any fight payments.
There’s a lot more to this documentary, such as showing how Mark Kerr was a completely different person inside and outside of the ring.
Inside, he was an animal, and outside he was a soft-spoken, laid-back, and very friendly person. Overall, The Smashing Machine can’t be missed.
2. Once I Was a Champion (2011)
>IMDB Rating: 7.4
Once I Was A Champion shares the story of Evan Tanner’s life as an MMA fighter and former UFC champion, and his untimely death while still an active UFC fighter.
The documentary features many of the biggest names in MMA sharing their opinions of Evan Tanner and the nature of his death.
Some of those names are Randy Couture, Matt Lindland, Chael Sonnen, Forrest Griffin, Dana White, Rich Franklin, Phil Baroni, and referee John McCarthy.
It shows the trials and tribulations of fighting, such as how Evan Tanner lived in a trailer when training at Team Quest because he was broke, and how Evan wasn’t really a fan of fighting but saw it as a job.
The documentary explores Evan Tanner’s unique personality as an over-analyzer and nihilist, who wasn’t truly happy even after becoming an undisputed UFC champion. It also shows how having to take care of himself from the age of 13 made him a lonely character.
Finally, Once I Was a Champion explores Tanner’s alcoholism and how it potentially cost him his marriage, UFC career, and life.
3. Fightville (2011)
>IMDB Rating: 6.5
Fightville shares the journey of up-and-coming MMA fighters in Louisiana who have dreams of making it to the UFC – most notably Dustin Poirier and Albert Stainback.
Being produced in 2011, Fightville is amazing because Dustin Poirier goes on to become one of the best MMA fighters in the world.
The documentary does a great job at showing the mindset, passion, natural talent, and hard work it takes to become a top-level MMA fighter who gets into the top MMA promotions like the UFC.
Dustin Poirier explains he never thought about money with MMA, he just loved to fight as a kid.
Fightville shows fighting as a metaphor for life. You can always be pushing limits, progressing, getting better, and demanding more from yourself in life. Put yourself out there and do more is the message it delivers.
It also includes the stories of two gym owners with their stable of fighters, former UFC fighter Tim Credeur, and Gil Guillory, owner of a small feeder MMA promotion in Lousiana called USA MMA.
Gil Guillory shares the struggle of small MMA promotions making local shows happen as they upfront all costs and struggle to break even – many times coming out with a loss.
To save money, Gil promotes and sets up events with the help of his young children. The show at the end of the documentary featuring Dustin Poirier in the title fight costs Gil $55,000, a huge chunk of change.
Tim Credeur shares how MMA today is separating real martial arts from what is theoretical and movie-based stuff. “To make it for everyone is to make it not what it really is”. Overall, Fightville is a motivating and captivating watch.
4. Jens Pulver: Driven (2011)
>IMDB Rating: 6.8
After becoming the UFC’s inaugural UFC lightweight champion in 2001 but having lost his 4 previous bouts, Driven is full of tension as Jens Pulver shares his mental and physical preparation for potentially his last fight.
Driven takes a unique dive into the childhood and life of Jens Pulver, who shares how he got into MMA due to his life growing up with an abusive alcoholic father.
The verbal abuse and beatings he endured created a very strong man but they gave him many emotional and psychological problems.
Jens also shares how he lives paycheck to paycheck because MMA doesn’t pay well, but how he can’t quit because he has a wife and kids and fighting is all he’s known for the past 25 years.
This only adds to the tension for his upcoming UFC fight and makes Driven a must-watch UFC documentary.
5. Such Great Heights (2012)
>IMDB Rating: 6.2
Such Great Heights is a UFC documentary about Jon Fitch’s training camp at American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) and his title fight against welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre.
The documentary shows Jon Fitch as a quiet, humble man, who loves fighting because it’s honest and there aren’t any shortcuts given. It also shows Fitch as extremely mentally strong, which more than his talent is the reason he had such a great MMA career.
Such Great Heights does a great job at showing the training that AKA put Fitch through to prepare him for his title fight. One of their favorite ways of testing him is 5 rounds of sparring with a fresh fighter for each round, known as shark tank sparring.
Fighters such as Josh Thomson, Cain Velasquez, Pat Minihan, and other new fighters share their experience as MMA fighters too.
Pat Minihan takes the cameras inside his RV (which is outside the gym) where he sleeps and also talks about sleeping in warehouses, cars, and on fighter’s couches.
Lastly, the documentary shows the love and friendship fighters get and feel from their coaches and trainers, and how essential it is to their progression and success in the lonely sport of MMA.
6. Takedown: The DNA of GSP (2014)
>IMDB Rating: 7.4
Takedown is about the life and UFC career of GSP up until his 3rd to last fight against Nick Diaz in 2013 (UFC 158).
The documentary offers a fantastic insight into one of the greatest MMA fighters of all time, and also some of the best MMA coaches such as John Danaher and Firas Zahabi.
GSP shares he became a fighter because he was bullied at school and his dad got him into karate classes. He was then inspired by watching Royce Gracie, the smallest fighter at UFC 1 who beat all of his bigger opponents to win the tournament.
It shows how GSP was never the most talented fighter in any particular martial art, but how he has obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and managed to channel this into becoming exceptionally skilled, disciplined, and dedicated to his MMA career.
GSP became one of the great fighters at mixing all martial arts together, as well as dictating whether an MMA fight takes place standing or on the ground.
GSP shares how the loss to Matt Sierra was the most humiliating day of his life, and how he left his ego out of MMA and the UFC octagon from that day onward.
Takedown also includes the heated rivalry and trash-talking between GSP and Nick Diaz, and how this fuels their upcoming fight.
Overall, Takedown is a brilliantly produced UFC documentary providing lots of fighting insight into MMA and GSP, one of the greatest fighters and most humble personalities in MMA.
7. Fighting for a Generation: 20 Years of the UFC (2013)
>IMDB Rating: 7.8
A great documentary for those interested in the history of the UFC from the very beginning in 1993 up until 2013. It shows the reasons why the UFC was founded, the tough times the promotion faced, the 1995 SEG buyout, the 2001 Fertitta brothers buyout, and more.
Fighting For a Generation shows how the UFC developed through trial and error, going from having no rules, being seen as barbaric, and being attacked by politicians, to introducing rules and becoming one of the safest combat sports – at least safer than boxing.
The Fertitta brothers had never done production and didn’t know anything about fighting – they were just fans like the rest of us and were willing to go millions of dollars under to try and make it work.
The last great thing the documentary does is take you through the success of The Ultimate Fighter and the many inspirational fighters who generated crowds and elevated the UFC to higher levels.
Some of the fighters in focus are BJ Penn, Chuck Liddell, Matt Hughes, Anderson Silva, and Conor McGregor.
8. Fighting in the Age of Loneliness (2018)
>IMDB Rating: 8.3
Fighting in the Age of Loneliness is an online documentary more detailed on the history of MMA and the UFC than any other MMA documentary.
It starts with the birth of judo in 19th century Japan and the crazy journey it took around the world to progress into modern MMA in 2018.
The documentary has just one narrator (Felix Biederman) who does a spectacular job of providing in-depth detail in a logical timeline – you can tell it took many weeks of work and research to produce (Jon Bois).
In total, the documentary is just under 2 hours long for 5 parts and it covers literally everything.
Women’s divisions, USADA, drugs in the sport, rivalries, UFC business deals, the growth of the UFC through the years, its star fighters, the UFC sale in 2016, Pride and its corrupt connections, and a whole lot more.
At different stages, it even relates how the politics of the time affect what’s happening in the UFC and MMA world. Not only all of the above, but it’s free and available to watch on YouTube.
9. Choke (1999)
>IMDB Rating: 7.4
Choke is a behind-the-scenes look at the life of Bjj wizard Rickson Gracie as he prepares for the 1995 vale tudo championship in Tokyo, Japan. One of the best aspects of Choke is seeing what goes into the success of an MMA fighter, especially in the earliest days of the sport.
You see how Rickson Gracie values family time, has great breathing techniques, meditation sessions, escaping out to nature, flexibility and mobility training, cold water submerging, the practice of semen retention for 2 weeks before an upcoming fight, and more.
Choke shows every Rickson Gracie fight through the 1995 VTJ tournament and the mentality and training of some of his upcoming opponents who believe they can win the tournament and beat Rickson; who at the time was undefeated in MMA (8-0) and had a record of 450-0 outside it.
Choke is a great documentary if you want to see the strength of Bjj in MMA and why Bjj became so widespread in just 1 century, compared to martial arts like wrestling and boxing which have been around for millenniums.
Overall, Choke can be used as a textbook showcasing of the lifestyle and professionalism required to become one of the best MMA/UFC fighters.
10. Conor McGregor: Notorious (2017)
>IMDB Rating: 7.1
The documentary shows the 4 years preceding the McGregor vs. Diaz 2 fight, from how McGregor went from living with his girlfriend at his mum’s house in Ireland and receiving debt letters from the Irish Debt Bureau to winning UFC championships and becoming the biggest earner and draw in MMA history.
It starts with McGregor’s martial arts journey and his quitting his job so he can commit to training full-time, before working his way to becoming the Cage Warrior featherweight and lightweight champion and eventually joining the UFC.
Most notable about McGregor’s journey in the documentary is the belief he had in himself and the confidence his girlfriend had in him from the very start – an essential ingredient for success as a fighter.
You get to see his passion for the sport, his training, and how he always kept the same close group around him.
The documentary is an essential watch for MMA fans, current MMA fighters, and anyone who’s thinking of a career as an MMA fighter.
11. Pride Decade
>IMDB Rating: N/A
If you didn’t know that Pride Fighting Championships (Pride FC) was all the rave before the UFC bought them out, then this documentary allows you to see why it was.
The Pride Decade documentary is one of the best if you want to see a lot of the best MMA fights in the sport’s early development.
The documentary focuses on fighting and Pride had the overwhelming majority of the best MMA fighters in the world during its run from 1997 to 2007.
Pride Decade features many of the early fighters who had a big impact on the promotion, where they share their thoughts and feelings before heading into certain fights and their life as fighters.
It also features the great title reigns of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Wanderlei Silva, and Fedor Emlianenko.
Pride Decade also shows the great rivalries, such as Japan’s most popular fighter, Kazushi Sakuraba’s rivalry with the Gracie family, and the UFC vs. Pride rivalry which sees Chuck Liddell sent to Pride to compete in Pride’s 2nd major Grand Prix tournament – a one-night middleweight tournament featuring an absolutely stacked roster.
12. Rites of Passage: The Rebirth of Combat Sports (2001)
>IMDB Rating: 7.1
Rites of Passage is an early MMA documentary and a must-watch for those who want to see the early days of MMA before Unified Rules were established in 2001.
The documentary has three chapters: the Inoue Brothers, a vale tudo tournament in Brazil, and The Monster (Kevin Randleman) and the Wolf (Eugene Jackson).
Within each chapter, the most popular early MMA fighters Randy Couture, Mark Coleman, Frank Shamrock, Kevin Randleman, and many others speak to the camera to narrate the story.
The fighters open up about their childhood, why they fight, and how they got into fighting.
The most open is Kevin Randleman, who mentions getting molested as a young kid and how it caused him to attempt suicide. He talks about the other troubles he had, but how he always stayed mentally strong.
Rites of Passage shows great cage-side fight footage in the UFC Japan event and the vale tudo events it covers, combined with the high-tempo hip-hop music used throughout.
Overall, Rites of Passage shows how MMA goes from being considered a violent sport to more of a chess match where all fighters control their own destiny as they can quit at any time.
13. The Hurt Business (2016)
>IMDB Rating: 6.4
The Hurt Business features the voices of several prominent UFC fighters and those involved in MMA. It’s a deeper look into the emotions and way of life of many fighters and the ups and downs they face.
The documentary looks at injuries, how fighters deal with parenthood, and how many fighters are perfectionists who can be affected mentally by losses which sometimes leads to depression.
It also covers brain damage fears, the history of MMA tracing back to Pankration at the Olympics in Ancient Greece, and the sad reality of many MMA fighters having nothing at the end of their career.
The main featured fighters are Jon Jones, Sara McMann, and Rashad Evans, as well as former MMA fighter Michael “Joker” Guymon.
The Joker is the most open about his life and involvement in MMA, where he shares his story from former fighter to struggling with depression and affording to keep his gym open.
14. Bisping (2021)
>IMDB Rating: 7.7
A documentary going over the spectacular MMA career of Michael “The Count” Bisping, from one of the most hated UFC fighters to one of the most popular, and now UFC commentator, and from written-off to UFC middleweight champion and beating the likes of Anderson Silva.
Bisping shares his humble beginnings and how mental fortitude is most important for MMA fighters as they always get knocked down and doubted but have to keep moving forward.
This is exactly what Michael Bisping did repeatedly throughout his career to become one of the best British fighters.
The documentary also does a great job of showing Bisping’s hilarious trash-talking and great character throughout his MMA career, as well as his rivalry with Luke Rockhold.
On the darker side, it also features the realities of MMA and how he eventually lost his eye because of fighting.
Overall, Bisping is an inspiring UFC documentary full of insight, the reality of fighting, and laughter – and featuring interesting characters such as Vin Diesel.
15. Like Water (2011)
>IMDB Rating: 6.9
Like Water follows Anderson Silva before his upcoming first fight against Chael Sonnen. It’s hilarious because Chael Sonnen is constantly trash-talking Silva throughout and Silva won’t say a bad word in return, it’s just not in his nature as he’s focused on the fighting.
In a way, Silva trash talks during his fights because he showboats and disrespects his opponents by taunting them and appearing to barely try.
Because of this, Dana White gets extremely angry with Anderson Silva for not taking the fight against Demian Maia seriously and walking around the octagon inactive.
Like Water also gives insight into the training Anderson Silva performs and the tactics he uses for upcoming fights.
For example, you see Anderson Silva practicing the triangle choke which he used to submit Chael Sonnen in the 5th round to win the fight after being rag-dolled for the previous 20-plus minutes.