If you know anything about mixed martial arts, you know that Greg Jackson is the Godfather of the practice. One of the original practitioners of getting punched and asking for more, Jackson has mentored and help formulate some of the biggest names in the UFC. But his ways aren’t for everyone, and he is a unique mind when it comes to the martial art’s allure and addiction.
As Frank Grillo’s fictional fight coach Alvey Kulina would say, there’s a demon inside Jackson that he’s chasing. Alvey was making a point about how he loved being a fighter more than he does being a trainer and coach, but how Jackson is simply different. For the famed MMA coach, the teaching and distribution of fighting knowledge is the drug of choice.
It’s that addiction and endless allure that shapes Byron Balasco’s “Kingdom,” a DirecTV original series that Jackson consulted on. He made a cameo in the series as well, as himself of course. He stole away Natalie Martinez’s Alicia Mendez after one of her big victories, enticing her interests and connecting them to Wheeler’s stint on the farm. It was easy to buy Jackson as a legendary face of that world, and even in a small onscreen amount, he elevated Balasco’s world of troubled souls. The behind the scenes work, aided by Joe Daddy Stevenson and Juan Archuleta, definitely had Jackson’s watermark attached.
This past week, Jackson participated in a special Q&A hosted by the highly resourceful and passionate Facebook group, BRING BACK KINGDOM, Jackson dished on various aspects of the show and his contributions to it. You name it, and the question was asked at least twice. When I chose to ask Jackson was about the authenticity of the show, which was one of its most flawless accomplishments.
Question: What’s the one thing that “Kingdom” got absolutely right in their portrayal of mixed martial arts?
Jackson: How much their personal life effects their performance in the event. Some can rise above it and some can’t, but there is always an effect.
Incredible answer. Look, you volley a question at someone and hope for an intimate response-but Jackson’s reply was tremendous and right on point. Balasco’s show was technically efficient, but the drama outside the ring gave the show its real juicy texture. That was the part that attached fans to the show early on, and especially when Netflix picked it up in July.
Jonathan Tucker’s Jay Kulina took his personal woes into the cage every fight, and it could be the best of him or it could get the best of him. Jay drowned in his demons and guilt by choice, like someone recognizing the dark in their soul and smiling at it. When his girlfriend was murdered days before a big fight-the rematch with Wheeler-Jay was simply demolished emotionally. While he hung around the fight for a few rounds, the conclusion was marked in stone the second he walked around the corner into the pool area of the motel.
Alvey found a way to keep it together in the Matt Hughes fight just days after his son was killed. Some power through and find a previously unseen thread, but most simply can’t separate the carnage in and outside the ring. Maybe it’s because Alvey was older and more unscrewed in the head. Perhaps not. Jackson’s admission gives weight to the fact that while it may be a powerful thing, the human element can never be measured properly. You just feel it every day.
I told Tucker during an interview that one of the best parts of the show was its ability to make the outside the ring elements of the story as intoxicating as the bloodshed that took place inside the octagon. It was about what they fought in life that couldn’t be kicked or choked out. Balasco, according to Jackson, nailed that vital part.
When Jackson nods in approval years after its completion, you did good. When Dana White and the UFC, along with several fighters guest-starring, nod their head as well, you did very good. It’s about creating entertainment AND honoring the real world.
Byron Balasco’s “Kingdom” did just that, so please, for the 100th time with sugar on top, go watch the fucking show on Netflix this week.
Until next time,
More love and less peace… unless you’re in the cage.