Josh Gross
Tuesday September 8th, 2009

There's a longstanding tradition of athletes eschewing what made them famous to explore their inner muse. And vice versa for some of Hollywood's top stars. There's always something the other side has that, regardless if you're Steve McQueen or Quinton "Rampage Jackson, appears brighter.

But for MMA fans -- or maybe just this one -- acting has become tiresome.

On Sunday, it was reported that Gina Carano was cast in a spy thriller set to be directed by Steven Soderbergh. This, shortly after fans realized Jackson might not fight Rashad Evans in December because he's, instead, going to be the next B.A. Baracus in the remake of The A-Team. After deciding to appear in one of those bad video game adaptations, Roger Huerta hasn't fought in months (he finally returns in a couple weeks against Gray Maynard). Strikeforce middleweight champion Cung Le, perhaps MMA's worst offender, joined Huerta in Tekken, and has seemingly preferred acting over fighting for so long now it's difficult to know which profession should be mentioned as his first. Randy Couture faxed his resignation to the UFC in 2007 from a movie set in South Africa (the finished product is below). Even the unassuming Fedor Emelianenko tried it once -- thankfully, it didn't take. And on. And on.

Is it too much to call it an epidemic?

Really, it's not the acting bug that's annoying. It's the fights that get put on hold and the fighters who lose sight of how they came to be noteworthy in the first place. If rumors turn out to be true that Jackson forced a delay of his fight against Evans in Memphis -- I still haven't definitively heard that's the plan, but all signs are pointing in that direction -- to focus on filming, UFC president Dana White will have summed up the feelings of many people when he said, "This [expletive] drives me [expletive] nuts. So yeah, I'm not a big fan of fighters doing movies. When your career is over, if you turn into a movie star, that's awesome."

The camera loves a good fight scene, this won't change. And, if mixed martial artists are skilled and focused enough to excel in the cage and on the big screen, more power to them. However, I've seen my fair share of MMA-connected films, and most of the acting is on par with the fighting from some of the sport's earliest competitors: not good.

Some fighters, like Jackson and Carano, have decided to make the most of an opportunity. It's hard to deny them that, not when the alternative is 80 rounds of sparring in the gym and putting their physical well-being on the line every day; acting has to be an easy payday even if there isn't anything easy about acting.

But what of the cost to a fighter's real career? Can an MMA fighter ever truly be his or her best if they to step out of the gym for months at a time in the prime of their careers? I'm not so sure.

The drive to participate in Hollywood features is as much about money as it is an unmistakable earmark of the importance of celebrity to the MMA world. Few sports have churned out as many pseudo-celebs. Boxing -- to its credit, I think -- never has. If a boxer earned a spot in a motion picture, it usually came in the form of a cameo, long after his best fighting days had past. Yet, so instant is the fame created by MMA (within its own world at least), a fighter doesn't need to be anything approaching an all-time great to earn the privilege.

As far as Carano goes, perhaps she could use the break after succumbing in a bad way to Cris "Cyborg" Santos last month. In Soderbergh's Knockout, the face of women's MMA is reportedly "playing the role of a girl from the wrong side of the tracks who is given a second chance to use her skills for constructive purposes."

Count me among those who wish she'd use her skills for more destructive purposes.

SI.COM: Carano lands 'Knockout' of role

REPORT: Rampage to scrap bout to be next 'Mr. T'

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