Well, it’s finally happened. A movie may have gotten me into MMA. It wasn’t Never Back Down or Redbelt, and it certainly wasn’t Randy Couture in The Expendables. I’d seen some of the real matches but the footage captured in the documentary Fightville actually articulated the nuance and grace of the format.

In Lafayette, LA, Gil Guillory runs a local MMA circuit at rodeos. He’s always looking for new talent, to shake up the routine or because many fighters don’t keep fighting for long. Dustin and Albert are two rising fighters that directors Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein chronicle. According to mma news and rumors, Dustin Poirier would end up signed to the UFC.

Whether they’re in the gym or in the cage, the cameras get really close to the fights. That’s definitely a zoom lens in the cage and you can still see the wire, but it shows you what’s going on at a more intimate level. The fact that it’s so intense even in training and sparring is indicative of the thrilling technique.

Trainers and promoters share fight philosophy in the beginning of the film. They have some statistics that prove MMA fights are safer than boxing, by the weight of the gloves alone. Also safer than rodeo or NASCAR, judged by how many fewer incidents of brain damage are suffered in MMA than the aforementioned sports.

Dustin and Albert each come from aggressive backgrounds where sports fighting seems the healthiest outlet for their energy. Watching them train holds up with cinema’s best training montages. Flipping semi tires looks like some IronMan work and Dustin’s diet is grosser than Rocky’s raw eggs.

While Dustin seems destined to be a star, Albert gets distracted by a breakup. When they spar, Dustin just has his way with Albert. The coach, Colin, even tells Albert earlier to admit he’s not fighting, but Albert can’t quite do it. So it’s a valuable lesson. You also learn about Gil’s business. It’s a struggle to put on these shows and the arena event he’s planning will make or break his business.

Like any great doc, Fightville gets the audience inside the world and intimate with the characters. It ultimately doesn’t matter that it’s about MMA. It’s a moving portrait of a specific world, but it happens to be the most popular new sport so it’s a great way in.