When you think of MMA-based movies, comedy might not come immediately to mind. However, longtime MMA fan Kevin James has mixed the sport and the genre in his upcoming film “Here Comes the Boom,” which opens nationwide Friday.
“It really came from Joe Rogan and I talking,” James told the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Beatdown” show when asked where he’d got the idea for an MMA comedy. “I’ve always wanted to try to incorporate some mixed martial arts into a movie, and Joe and I were talking about how we could make it a comedy. It seems difficult to do without making it goofy and jokey … . The challenge was just kind of getting a blend of real comedy and real moments and also infusing that with realistic MMA.”
James, perhaps best known for his role in the CBS sitcom “The King of Queens,” studied karate as a kid and watched the first UFC in 1993. He was also friends with Rogan, a fellow comedian who for years now has been a UFC commentator.
“We were doing standup [comedy] together and we started watching Pancrase and we saw Bas Rutten in Japan with all his fights,” James said. “We were watching this crazy dude with the knee-high boots and the bald head, doing all these flips in the ring and knocking people out. We were laughing at this guy, like this guy was insane. We would watch him as much as we could.”
Eventually Rutten made his way to the UFC and won the heavyweight title. James got the chance to meet him, and the two hit it off.
“He’s just a great guy, a great friend, and that was kind of what inspired me all along to start making a movie to incorporate that,” James said, “showing the human side of this sport that I just respect, that I wouldn’t do necessarily, but I respect so much.”
In “Here Comes the Boom,” James plays a high school biology teacher who turns to professional fighting to raise money for his school. He said he wouldn’t have made the movie without the blessing of UFC President Dana White and owner Lorenzo Fertitta.
“The one thing, they didn’t want Paul Blart in the ring, in the Octagon, and I totally didn’t want that either,” said James, referring to the character he played in “Paul Blart: Mall Cop.” “I don’t want it to be goofy. We’re not trying to mock anything. They were the ones who said, ‘Listen, it’s not believable necessarily that you would be able to walk into the Octagon yourself, but you could be a decorated collegiate wrestler at one time.’ So we added that in there, and that I trained really hard and that I’m not fighting for the UFC championship, for the heavyweight championship. I’m fighting at the lower levels, the undercard, just because they have a [fighter] fall out and because of this great story of this teacher that’s coming up through the ranks, that they’ve given the opportunity.”
To play a fighter, James put in plenty of real training with coaches like Mark DellaGrotte and Rafael Cordeiro. The result is that his hands don’t look all that bad in the film.
“It’s a true testament to them making me look good, honestly,” James said. “I’ve always been into sports and athletics and I’ve always been into mixed martial arts a little bit here and there. The problem is my schedule. I don’t get time to train day in and day out. The fact of the matter is, I’m not that good. I’m really not. I don’t have the dedication that I wish I had to the sport or wish I could put into it, but I have worked hard, especially over the last 14 months, to train for this movie.”
Listen to the full interview (beginning at 2:55:54).