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MMA Movie Review: Bobby Razak's Mexican Fighter

Here's a look at the soon to be released Bobby Razak documentary about the careers of notable Mexican-American MMA fighters Cain Velasquez, Gilbert Melendez, and Miguel Torres.

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For those that don't know, Bobby Razak is a combat sports filmmaker with connections to the Tapout MMA brand (he is the founder of Tapout Films). He has directed documentary projects like Pit Fighter, Rites of Passage, and Mask (an upcoming film about Tapout co-founder Charles Lewis). This project, Mexican Fighter, looks at the lives and careers of some of MMA's most notable Mexican-American athletes. It is currently set for release on November 5th of this year and will be distributed by Revolver Entertainment.

Watching Mexican Fighter, one thing became readily apparent to me: making a movie, even a documentary, takes time. With much of it's footage shot in 2009, and following these fighters through their careers into 2010, this project is several years behind its target audience for a 2013 release. That's not to say that it's without any interest at all, but it's a good warning for viewers who may pick it up thinking that they'll hear stories about Cain Velasquez's heavyweight title reign, or Gilbert Melendez's UFC career.

In that same vein, it has to be said, that the highlight of watching this is getting to see more of Cain Velasquez's home life and training. Hearing more about who he is, how he grew up, and what drives him made him very much the star of this film even if nearly as much time was spent on his fellow fighters. Cain Velasquez is an interesting figure (although publicly a very quiet one) and this documentary does a nice job of bringing together his thoughts and connections to his Mexican roots and heritage.

Of course what that also means is that the segments about Gilbert Melendez and Miguel Torres, while not terrible, seem utterly supplemental; a spot featuring Leonard Garcia made the project feel especially dated. This isn't entirely because Torres has slid rather quickly into anonymity, in the years since losing his title to Brian Bowles, either. In reality, Velasquez simply has a much more interesting story to tell. He feels like a person less comfortable in his identity, working harder to connect with something that he didn't necessarily embody earlier in life.

For his part Torres comes off as very comfortable in his role as a Mexican athlete. He speaks Spanish fluently; his stories about his family and growing up are very much the embodiment of what viewers expect. Melendez on the flip-side seems more acclimatized. When the documentary wants someone to talk about Melendez, it's Jake Shields. He seems comfortable in his identity, which certainly has strong roots in his Mexican heritage, but is, perhaps, a heritage that's less a part of his day-to-day life and personality. Cain is the character in flux here and, because of that, the time the film spends on him seems much more meaningful.

Those points aside, the documentary has a bit of a chopped feeling to it. There's a central theme about being Mexican and being a fighter at play, but after the first twenty or so minutes it gets lost in talk about gyms and training and life goals, etc. Once again Cain is the only person for whom much of his day to day life seems to involve getting in touch with what it means to be Mexican-American. Part of that may be because this was at the height of the push to deliver him as the world's first "Mexican Heavyweight Champion," but a lot of it feels like the natural processes of someone who didn't spend a lot of time thinking about his heritage growing up, but found more and more importance in it as he got older.

Eventually, if you want a nice, but severely outdated, look at one of MMA's more media-shy champions, with a lot of extra fluff around it, you could do worse. I wouldn't add it to my collection, but if you see it on Netflix (or however else it may be distributed) and you're having a slow day, it's worth a look. Also, as a side note, they couldn't get Zuffa fight footage, which means Torres' fight against Brian Bowles is played out in an amusingly terrible animated montage.

Short story: 3/5 stars, if it had been released in 2011. Now, 2/5.

For those wishing to buy a copy off Amazon, here's the link:

Mexican Fighter

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