Mixed Martial Artist Michael Bisping is currently standing strong as the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight Champion. Like many fighters before him, Bisping has taken skills learned in the ring and transferred them to the world of film. Having already appeared in big-budget Hollywood action vehicle xXx: Return of Xander Cage alongside Vin Diesel and martial arts legend Donnie Yen, the champ has now returned home to co-star in My Name is Lenny. As the first British Champion in the UFC’s history it’s fitting that Michael’s taken the role of UK street-boxing legend, Roy ‘Pretty Boy’ Shaw. The film stars Josh Helman (Mad Max: Fury Road) as notorious bare-knuckle boxer Lenny McLean, following his life as an unlicensed boxer and a bitter rivalry with fellow East End hardman Shaw as they slug it out to determine just who is The Guv’nor in My Name Is Lenny.
The talented Bisping isn’t the first fighter to try his hand at acting on the big screen with My Name Is Lenny; here are some other recent stars of the MMA world that have made successful appearances in major films.
Randy Couture – The Expendables (2010)
Randy ‘The Natural’ Couture is a UFC legend having taken out some of the biggest names in the sport on his way to a record five title reigns. Couture’s biggest role to date came in 2010 when he found himself cast as the improbably named Toll Road, a key member of Sylvester Stallone’s ace team of old-school Hollywood hard men, The Expendables. Alongside the likes of Dolph Lundgren, Jet Li, Mickey Rourke, Jason Statham and Sly himself, Randy got to take part in the explosive action as the team’s expert demolitions man. His defining moment came in the film’s fiery finale when he took on, and took out, WWE legend Steve Austin. Distinguishing himself with honour, Couture was brought back for the series’ second and third instalments.
Quinton “Rampage” Jackson – The A-Team (2010) Charismatic fighter Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson’s colourful career has included championship winning stints at Japan-based MMA promotion Pride FC, the UFC, and even a spot of pro-wrestling for TNA. On the big screen, Rampage took on the role of one of the TV’s most beloved characters in the big screen adaptation of the eighties favourite The A-Team. As B.A. Baracus, a role made famous by gold-chain wearing, fool-pitying heavyweight Mr. T, Rampage played the tough-as-nails driver of the series iconic van, holding his own against acting heavyweights Liam Neeson and Bradley Cooper
Georges St-Pierre – Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Widely recognised as one of the world’s best pound-for-pound MMA fighters, two-time Welterweight Champion Georges St-Pierre is another legend of the Fabled UFC octagon. Having already starred in a variety of smaller roles GSP went big time last year, thrilling comics’ fans with a memorable appearance in the opening scenes of Captain America: Civil War. Playing villainous mercenary Batroc the Leaper, a master of the French form of kickboxing known as savate, staggeringly talented fighter and all-around athlete Georges was the perfect choice to stand toe-to-toe with Cap for some hard hitting fisticuffs.
Ronda Rousey – The Expendables 3 (2014)
‘Rowdy’ Ronda Rousey went from winning an Olympic medal in Judo to utter domination of the women’s division of the UFC. As the holder of the Women’s Bantamweight Championship, she became known for her quick finishes, taking out many opponents in seconds with her brutal takedowns. Despite eventually losing her belt to Holly Holm in 2015, Rousey had already begun to move into a career in film. To date she’s appeared in two huge action blockbusters, Fast & Furious 7 and The Expendables 3, following in the footsteps of Gina Carano and Randy Couture before her. In The Expendables 3, Rousey’s on the side of the good guys playing no-nonsense nightclub bouncer Luna, while inFast & Furious 7 she switches teams to face off against Hollywood action star Michelle Rodriguez.
Gina Carano – Deadpool (2016)
Master of Muay Thai and the face of women’s MMA, Gina Carano had a successful career and held numerous titles before turning her hand to acting. Her big break came when she landed the lead role in Steven Soderbergh’s spy thriller Haywire before going on to earn praise for her performance in the sixth instalment of mega-franchise Fast & Furious. Her most recent action-heavy role came as human-powerhouse Angel Dust in the box-office smash Deadpool. Playing a super strong villain, Carano got to deliver a mighty punch to fan-favourite X-man Colossus, and throw around the film’s wisecracking star.
Explosive and brutal, My Name Is Lenny is based on the true story of Britain’s most notorious bare-knuckle fighter: Lenny McLean (Josh Helman, Mad Max: Fury Road). A known associate of The Krays, Charles Bronson, and Ronnie Biggs, Lenny was an East End icon, bouncer, and enforcer at the centre of the unlicensed boxing world.
Welcome to the no-holds-barred epic portrayal of his life, from a troubled and violent childhood to his early fighting years, exploring his loving but volatile relationships and bitter rivalry with Roy Shaw (UFC Middleweight Champion Michael Bisping, xXx: Return of Xander Cage) all culminating in his championship win to become: THE GUV’NOR.
Also starring Nick Moran (Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels), BAFTA winner Chanel Cresswell (This is England) and Oscar-nominated John Hurt (V For Vendetta).
There will be a Special Presentation for My Name Is Lenny at the East End Film Festival June 9th. Also available on Digital Download June 9th and DVD & Blu-ray from June 12th.