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Celebrities Who Made MMA a Way of Life


At first though, Ashton Kutcher doesn’t appear like the type to sprawl on a gym mat and roll with former jiu-jitsu world champions. It’s not that the 36-year-old actor, better known to many as Michael Kelso from That 70’s Show fame, doesn’t have the frame for mixed martial arts. It’s that the media portrays him as a goof whose time is spent on making movies, dating gorgeous women, and financing start-ups.

How could he invest in the patience and discipline needed for MMA?

Kutcher finds a way and last week he received a two-stripe blue belt at Rigan Machado’s Academy in Beverly Hills. He’s even traveled to Brazil to train with BJJ legend Ricardo De La Riva and other Jiu-Jitsu black belts.  It’s a hobby Kutcher takes seriously, and one fellow celebrities have utilized.

From action heroes to lead singers, Hollywood’s elite practice in MMA for reasons beyond landing a movie role. They train with the best fighters in the world and many have belts to show for it.

Maybe it’s because of their contribution to combat sports, but the Gracie family has trained actors and musicians alike for over twenty years.  Mel Gibson (Braveheart) and Ed O’Neill (Married with Children) have trained with Rorion Gracie and Nicholas Cage (The Rock, Con Air) trains under UFC Hall of Famer Royce Gracie. Also, film director Guy Ritchie (Snatch, Sherlock Holmes) earned a brown belt in BJJ under the tutelage of Renzo Gracie.

Rock stars also feel the family’s love as Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee and Tool front man Maynard James Keenan have trained with the Gracie’s. With the help of Rickson Gracie, Keenan even earned a purple belt for his efforts.

Before their untimely deaths, Paul Walker and Michael Clarke Duncan were dedicated mixed martial artists. Walker earned a brown belt but was posthumously awarded a black belt by instructor Ricardo Miller. Duncan trained at Gracie Academy and held a purple belt. At time of his passing the academy stated that he “always made time to get in jiu-jitsu lessons when he was in between films.”

When one thinks of taekwondo Willie Nelson wouldn’t come to mind, but the country legend has a black belt in the sport. Nelson said that he began in his 20s as a way of losing weight and found that he enjoyed the art. Megadeth singer Dave Mustain also has a black belt and has been a goodwill ambassador for the World Taekwondo Federation.

While he has a purple belt in BJJ, British action star Jason Statham (The Expendables, Transporter) also train in kung fu, karate and kickboxing. In an interview last summer, Statham detailed why he got into jiu-jitsu. “Because there’s not too much contact with the face, so the face won’t get hurt and that’s very important in my profession,” Statham said. “You know, one mistake during the sparring and it’s hard to be in front of the camera when you have bruises or any kind of damage, so you have to try to, you know, do something else.”