Who Is UFC Legend Mark Kerr That Dwayne Johnson Is Playing in “The Smashing Machine”? MMA Record, UFC Career, and Everything You Need to Know About the Ex-Champ

Published 12/13/2023, 10:28 PM EST

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Dwayne Johnson, widely recognized as “The Rock” from his wrestling days, is set to take on the role of Mark Kerr in the upcoming biopic “The Smashing Machine,” as confirmed by his representative Michelle Margolis. Kerr’s story has previously been explored in the 2002 HBO documentary “The Smashing Machine” which provided fans with a behind-the-scenes look at his struggles in the early days of the sport.

The new biopic aims to delve into Kerr’s inspiring journey, showcasing personal challenges and triumphs. Kerr is known as a pioneer in the early days of MMA and his career is marked by being a UFC Heavyweight tournament champion and a World Vale Tudo tournament championship as well. As fans are eagerly anticipating another look at the life and achievements of a legend in the sport, let’s delve deeper into his MMA career and legacy in the sport!

Mark Kerr fought in UFC, PRIDE FC and WVC


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Mark Kerr was born in Ohio in 1968. In his youth, Kerr was a huge fan of professional wrestling, especially the WWF (World Wrestling Federation) and it inspired him to take up amateur wrestling in high school. He was a stand-out wrestler who quickly cemented himself as an incredible talent when he became the Ohio State wrestling champion.

In his collegiate wrestling career at Syracuse University, Kerr became the Division 1 NCAA champion and secured All-American status in 1992. He faced off against another future UFC legend, Randy Couture, during this time. However, he missed out on qualifying for the 1996 Olympic games which led to him transitioning to MMA.

Making his MMA debut in 1997, Kerr gained recognition for dominant performances in organizations like Pride FC and the UFC.  But he began his career fighting in the WVC (World Vale Tudo) Championships in Brazil. After dominating the competition with his incredible strength and wrestling skills, Kerr made his UFC debut at UFC 14 where he participated in the heavyweight tournament.


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A post shared by Mark Kerr (@markkerrtsm)

He then later shifted his focus to fighting in Japan in PRIDE FC due to the UFC’s promotional issues and the Japanese promotion offering much larger paychecks to MMA fighters at the time. He was successful in the beginning going on an extended win streak before he lost a decision to Kazuyuki Fujita.

The loss also marked the decline of Kerr’s MMA career as he only managed one more victory before going on an extended losing streak that saw him leave PRIDE FC after suffering 3 consecutive losses.

Kerr’s life was the subject of a documentary in 2002

HBO aired a documentary in 2002, directed by John Hyams, called “The Smashing Machine,” focusing on Mark Kerr’s life. It delved into Kerr’s painkiller addiction which was a result of the toll the sport was taking on his body. And it also highlighted the intense nature of early mixed martial arts contests which were notable for being brutal and bloody affairs, usually without gloves or modern rules. 

The film featured Kerr’s then-girlfriend, Dawn Staples, and fellow fighters Bas Rutten, Kevin Randleman, and Mark Coleman.


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A post shared by Mark Kerr (@markkerrtsm)


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 In the documentary, Bas Rutten revealed that, due to Kerr’s quick fight endings, PRIDE FC tournament directors restricted his ‘weapons’ to prolong fights for TV and crowd enjoyment. This meant that Kerr wasn’t allowed to use his knees or his patented headbutts which limited the tools he had at his disposal to win. This was also one other factor that may have led to Kerr’s rapid decline, along with his issues with substance abuse. 


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Nevertheless, Kerr remains an iconic figure in the history of the sport, and with Dwayne Johnson’s new biopic, an entirely new generation of MMA fans will be able to learn more about the incredible, “Smashing Machine”!

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Written by:

Dushyant Patni


One take at a time

I am Dushyant Patni, a UFC writer at EssentiallySports. My passion for Mixed Martial Arts started because my father used to be a boxer and a martial arts fanatic. It passed down to me as my first pair of boxing gloves were his old ones! Prior to joining EssentiallySports, I honed my writing and editing skills across various organizations as a writer and an editor.
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Edited by:

Joyita Das