Faith, Fists and Romance. At Last, a Muscular Faith Film.
By Michael Ireland, Senior Correspondent, ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net)
TUSCALOOSA, AL (ANS, July 26, 2016) – With a mashup of faith, fighting and romance, THE FIGHT WITHIN film’s producers aim to attract a wide audience.
According to a media release, THE FIGHT WITHIN is “a muscular faith film set in the rough-and-tumble world of MMA (mixed martial arts).” It premieres in limited theatrical release, nationwide, Aug. 12, from GVN Releasing.
“Faith films tend to draw faith audiences,” said Jim Davis, executive producer and screenwriter.
“This movie should also engage people with no sense of faith because inner struggle is universal. A cage and a fight are spot-on metaphors to show a young man coming to terms with who he is and what life brings,” Davis said.
According to a media release, as the film develops, THE FIGHT WITHIN tells a story of courage, hope, love and growing faith in God. Meanwhile, in Davis’ words: “A bare-knuckled mixed martial arts action film is not a traditional faith-based film, but we hope to engage a more diverse audience and share a message of hope and salvation through our story.”
In the feature film THE FIGHT WITHIN, a young man leaves the world of mixed martial arts, finds faith and is drawn back into MMA fighting . . . before finding his own identity.
It’s a case of art imitating life.
ARE MARTIAL ARTS FAIR GAME FOR CHRISTIANS?
Opinions among Christians are similarly back and forth when it comes to mixing faith and fists. Should Christians fight? Should they compete in events like MMA where they punch, kick or wrestle an opponent into submission . . . and in a cage?
First things first. THE FIGHT WITHIN story is set in the world of mixed martial arts but, according to creator Jim Davis, it’s not about MMA fighting. It’s about a young man’s internal battle to find his true identity.
Framing that internal struggle within the fighting world of MMA, Davis aims to attract audiences beyond the typical faith film pull.
Agree or disagree, the strategy has a long history. The term “muscular Christianity” was coined in mid-1850’s Victorian England. Clergyman Charles Kingsley and author/boxing coach Thomas Hughes advocated piety, physical health and competition to make faith attractive to young men.
The concept, in various iterations, shows up today in such organizations as Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
However, some say building character through competitive sports is one thing; beating someone into submission is another. Sen. John McCain has called MMA “human cockfighting.”
Christianity Today was more circumspect. The magazine took its questions to a former Marine, a former football coach who manages a Christian boxer, and a former cage fighter—strong believers all. The result? Two to 1 say mixed martial arts can’t jibe with the Christian life.
So where to draw the line? If not MMA, how about boxing? Wrestling? Football?
The former fighter/coach believes that watching it simply plays into fantasies.
The Marine said, “We are called to responsibly steward our bodies and glorify God with them—not to spend our leisure time watching fighters pound each other to a bloody pulp.”
(http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2012/january/cage-fighting.html?start=1 ) Yet for all that, MMA has a significant following among Christians.
A New York Times article estimates that 700 churches use the sport as a ministry tool; and the youth ministry arm of the National Association of Evangelicals—45,000 churches strong— recognizes it as a “legitimate outreach tool.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/02/us/02fight.html?_r=0)
Meanwhile a faith-MMA clothing line called Jesus Didn’t Tap, refers to one opponent tapping the other with a hand to signal submission in a fight.
In both corners of the ring proponents support their arguments from the Bible. The body is a temple, says one side. “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14), says the other.
For Jim Davis, THE FIGHT WITHIN is not in this discussion. His aim is to reach audiences with a story of courage, hope and love that features action, romance and faith.
Maybe it will be knockout.
Audience response to screenings this summer backs Davis up:
“Something for everyone.”
“You can bring your whole family and walk out and feel uplifted.”
Davis is an ordained minister who now puts his faith in action in the business world as owner of a digital marketing company. Seeing the need for a faith-based film about the search for identity, he began to develop the storyline.
THE FIGHT WITHIN stars John Major Davis, Lelia Symington and Matt Leddo. Also featured are Mike Taylor, UFC Heavyweight champion Dan Severn, and Wesley Williams. Michael William Gordon directs. Following the film’s theatrical run, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will release THE FIGHT WITHIN on all home entertainment formats.
In the film, Logan Chandler (John Major Davis) is a rising star in the world of mixed martial arts, but when his father, an MMA Champion, dies while training him, Logan leaves the ring unsure who he is anymore. He finds romance with a young woman of deep faith (Lelia Symington) and seeks to overcome a troubled past and establish a new life. His new faith is tested when a local MMA professional (Matt Leddo)—whose only losing fight was to Logan—forces him back into the cage.
As writer and executive producer, Davis worked to ensure that the film’s fight scenes accurately depict an MMA match. John Major Davis and Leddo trained daily, for months, with professional fighters. THE FIGHT WITHIN cast also features MMA Hall of Fame member Dan Severn as Logan’s father, and Mixed Martial Arts veteran and fight choreographer Mike Taylor.
“We fully expect some fans to see it just for the fight realism,” Davis said. “For authentic action, we’ve had viewers rank it far above a certain more well-known cage-fight movie.”
In fact, while principal film shooting was in Tuscaloosa, the climactic fight scene was filmed at a professional MMA event in Mississippi.
“People don’t think about why they make the choices they make; we want them to leave the theaters asking what if: What if I did it God’s way?” Davis said.
TITLE THE FIGHT WITHIN
LOGLINE A young mixed martial arts fighter seeks to overcome a troubled past and build a new life based on his new faith and his new love but is forced back into the fighting world by a local MMA professional.
SYNOPSIS Logan Chandler (John Major Davis) is a rising star in the world of mixed martial arts, but when his gym-owner father dies while training him, Logan leaves the ring. He finds romance with a young woman of deep faith (Lelia Symington) and seeks to overcome his troubled past and build a new life. But his new faith is tested when a local MMA professional (Matt Leddo)—whose only losing fight was to Logan—forces him back into the cage.
PRODUCTION New Life Cinema
RELEASE DATE Aug. 12, 2016
THE FIGHT WITHIN features plenty of bare-knuckles mixed martial arts action. Not for the squeamish and definitely not traditional faith-film fare. That suits the film’s creator just fine. Screenwriter/Executive Producer Jim Davis believes too many faith films attract mostly people of faith. THE FIGHT WITHIN is a story about the vital necessity of a relationship with God, but it also tells of a young man’s search for identity. Talk to Jim Davis about striking the right cinematic balance to reach a diverse audience.
A Film Makes High School Acquaintances Fast Friends
John Major Davis and Matt Leddo—stars of THE FIGHT WITHIN—attended high school together and even played on the same football team . . . but barely knew one another and rarely spoke. Now after months of training together for the film’s carefully choreographed mixed martial arts fight scenes, the two American Christian Academy alums are fast friends.
Who Would Jesus Fight? Does Faith Go With Face Punches?
Articles in leading Christian media outlets ask: Is Cage Fighting Ethical for Christians? and Is MMA Compatible With Christianity? Yet more than 700 churches use MMA (mixed martial arts) as part of ministry. How do flying fists help tell a story of growing faith?
DIRECTOR Michael William Gordon
WRITER Jim Davis
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER Jim Davis
John Major Davis
John Major Davis makes his feature film debut with a starring role in THE FIGHT WITHIN. After playing competitive sports in high school and college, Davis followed his dream of acting to Los Angeles and attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. He also trained at the New York Film Academy-LA, Margie Haber Studio and Anthony Meindl’s Actor Workshop. Davis grew up in Tuscaloosa, AL.
Lelia Symington has been featured in five short films, worked as a voice-over artist in three animated films and can be seen in numerous TV commercials. She moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting after graduating from New York University’s Tisch School for the Arts. She makes her feature film debut with a starring role in THE FIGHT WITHIN.
A graduate of the University of Alabama, Max Leddo is a Tuscaloosa, AL-based actor. Prior to landing a featured role in THE FIGHT WITHIN, Leddo’s credits include SOLACE, which starred Anthony Hopkins and Colin Farrell, and the TV series Homicide Hunter: Lt. Joe Kenda.
Mike Taylor trains professional fighters, has staged action fight scenes for film and television and performed stunts. Behind Mike’s fight choreography is an extensive background in mixed martial arts, boxing and combative skills. On set, he is known for his dedication, skills and focus.
Coldwater, MI-native Dan Severn is known to fight-and-wrestling fans worldwide since his 1994 debut in the Ultimate Fighting Championships [UFC]. Severn is the only triple crown UFC champion in the sport today and is a member of the Hall of Fame. He has won two eight-man tournaments and The Ultimate Ultimate 1996.
Jim Davis—Executive Producer/Screenwriter
An ordained Christian pastor, business entrepreneur, public speaker, writer and film producer, Jim was a youth minister, college minister and pastor before returning to the business world. He currently operates a digital marketing firm through which he supports several Christian ministries. Jim and his wife, Tara, have three children and live in Tuscaloosa, AL.
Learn more at www.TheFightWithinMovie.com
Visit THE FIGHT WITHIN on Facebook at Facebook.com/thefightwithinmovie1
For interviews, contact: Michael Conrad at michael@Lovell-Fairchilld.com. or by phone at 214-616-0320.
Photo Captions: 1) The Fight Withion poster 2) L to R: Director Michael William Gordon with John Major Davis and Mike Taylor. 3) Lead actor John Major Davis in THE FIGHT WITHIN. 4) Michael Ireland.
About the Writer: Michael Ireland is a volunteer internet journalist serving as Senior Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service, as well as an Ordained Minister who has served with ASSIST Ministries and written for ASSIST News Service since its beginning in 1989. He has reported for ANS from Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Israel, Jordan, China, and Russia. To help partner with Michael in ministry, log-on to: https://ACTINTL.givingfuel.com/ireland-michael.
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