If you are a fan of mixed martial arts or combat sports in general and you appreciate the deeper aspects of MMA, then “The Proving Grounds” documentary is very simply a “must-watch”. The documentary details in-depth the Jackson-Winklejohn MMA coaches and fighters as well as the inner-workings of the world famous martial arts gym.
The documentary styled film was directed by Landon Dyksterhouse who also goes by the alias “The Mash Up King”, produced by Nick Shuster, RD Whittington and Shandon Dyksterhouse. The one-hour, 38-minute film was also financially supported by the Hard Rock Casino in Albuquerque.
In terms of excitement and intrigue, the film is mainly for MMA fans who want to see behind the scenes of one of MMA’s most successful gyms. However, its themes of philosophy, adversity and history can captivate just about anyone willing to engage their interests into watching. The film features some of the most prominent and iconic figures of the gym including Coaches Greg Jackson, Mike Winklejohn and Chris Luttrell as well as fighters Jon Jones, Leonard Garcia, Clay Guida, Donald Cerrone and Julie Kedzie.
For New Mexico natives, the images in the opening scenes and throughout the film will be familiar as the film is cultural heavy in showing a lot of Albuquerque from neighborhoods to business, street signs to landscapes.
For fans of Greg Jackson and the world famous gym, the documentary gives a very detailed history as to how it all came to be. From Jackson’s start in the South Valley to his introduction to Mike Winklejohn made possible by Chris Luttrell all the way to current FIT NHB’s Coach Tom Vaughn’s place in the creation of the Jackson-Winklejohn gym.
The film follows Leonard Garcia and Donald Cerrone to their ranch where they walk through the house that is home to fighters coming in and out of training camps. Included in the footage is horseback riding, the dirt track for motorcycles and ATV’s and the duo’s fondness of rifles and shooting bottles.
Interestingly, one of the most significant aspects of the film is the documenting of Coaches Jackson, Winklejohn and Lutrell training a young, future UFC Champion, Jon Jones. Watching the progression of Jones through training camp for Brandon Vera was heavily intriguing as it is very surreal to see the Jon Jones of today and the then upcoming version of the current champion and top pound-for-pound fighter.
The most intriguing part of the movie could be the non-fighting content as the documentary closely follows the behavior, antics and mentality of Greg Jackson. The intelligent Jackson stole the show with this philosophy based discussions, unorthodox coaching style and very abstract thoughts of martial arts. By far, “Yoda” was the individual who for years had the most mystery surrounding him and for fight fans who had pondered his martial arts background were treated to find out that the “MMA guru” considered by many to be the sports best coach was never really a competitor.
Another storyline of note that was covered in the film was the split between one of Albuquerque’s most polarizing sports figures, Diego Sanchez and the Jackson-Winklejohn gym. While it is common knowledge that Sanchez has since returned, the debate was one of controversy back in 2010 when Sanchez famously left Albuquerque to train with the Ribiero Brothers in San Diego.
All those storylines made the film one of historical proportions and adding the introduction to Ricky Kottenstette -Jackson-Winkeljohn Manager and the creator of the Jackson’s MMA Series events- the coverage of some of the non-MMA figures inside the gym and also some fun back and forth banter between fighters and coaches alike, the film was one of intrigue, allure and emotional entertainment. To see behind the scenes what it is like to grind the way only fighters know how to do and to see how much emotion is involved in physically focused sport.
In review context, every MMA fan should find the time to watch this documentary. It involves fight footage, exclusive content and all the storylines of fighters who we now know to be in different lights. Jones is now the current Champion, Holly Holm is now an MMA fighter and as mentioned, Diego Sanchez is now back with the Jackson’s team. The movie is constantly switching directions so that no-single storyline becomes stale. For non-MMA fans, the film is still very entertainingly made for simply sport enthusiasts or film fans of emotionally driven documentaries.
Check out “The Proving Grounds” which you can easily find now available on Hulu at http://www.hulu.com/watch/503546