To most people not intimately connected with mixed martial arts, MMA’s ascension to its status one of the most popular sports in America has probably felt pretty sudden. Ten years ago, most Americans had never heard of MMA or the UFC, let along watched a match on TV. Then, just like that, Dana White was everywhere, guys like Chuck Liddell and Jon “Bones” Jones were household names and Ronda Rousey was a crossover star.

But of course, MMA did not just burst out of nowhere. In an upcoming documentary called “Tough Guys,” Showtime will explore an underground fighting movement that began in Pittsburgh in 1979 and served as a precursor to modern MMA. The film is executive produced by Morgan Spurlock, known for “Super Size Me” and other popular documentaries.

“When I was around 12 years old, my dad took me to my first tough man competition in my hometown of Beckley, W.V., and I have to admit, it was one of the greatest things I’d ever seen,” Spurlock said in a press release. “So when the opportunity came along for me help tell the story of its origin, I jumped at the chance. TOUGH GUYS is an unbelievable tale about the creation of this one of a kind, man against man, skill against skill, sport of the ages. Films like this are rare discoveries, and the characters behind them are even more incredible. If you like watching guys get punched in the face as much as I do, then you are going to love this movie.”

Per a press release, “Tough Guys” will feature interviews with fighters, promoters and fans from the early days of MMA, as well as archival footage of the fights.

“Tough Guys” is directed by Henry Roosevelt and W.B. Zullo and produced by Craig DiBiase. It will air Sept. 15 at 9 p.m. ET on Showtime. Here is the trailer:

About Alex Putterman

Alex is a writer and editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. He has written for The Atlantic, VICE Sports,, and more. He is a proud alum of Northwestern University and The Daily Northwestern. You can find him on Twitter @AlexPutterman.