Bruce Lee movies inspired people, especially fighters and martial artists of the previous generation. Fighting anime is the biggest influence of the current one.
Dragon Ball Z, One Piece, and Naruto are the big three when it comes to popular shounen fighting anime. Lots of Mixed Martial Artists grew up watching the Dragon Ball franchise and were inspired in their fighting careers. The premise of the show has many parallels to real life. The fighters are expecting a big battle on the horizon (Vegeta and Nappa coming to Earth, Freeza, the Tournament of Power), and must train themselves to get stronger. Gohan gets trained by Piccolo. Vegeta trains by himself, or with Goku, etc. The heroes have rivals amongst themselves but in the end, want to improve their skills to fight their main opponent.
MMA fighters receive a fight offer for months or weeks in the future. They organize their training camps with technique drilling, sparring, and physical training to prepare themselves for the big day. Training hurts. MMA athletes are exhausted every day and just want to train, eat, and sleep. Hopefully, they’ll level up and go Super Saiyan during the fight to get the victory.
Roxanne “The Happy Warrior” Modafferi (the author) cosplayed all of the different levels of Goku and Vegteta before her UFC fights over the past few years: normal black hair, yellow Super Saiyan, Blue, Ultra Instinct, Majin Vegeta, and Goku Black with the Potara earing.
The Ultimate Fighter TV season 15 winner Michael Chiesa has a Dragon Ball tattooed above his knee.
Naruto blew up as another good fighting anime with an inspiring plot like and amazing character depth. Lots of people could relate to Naruto, who didn’t seem to be good at anything in the beginning. He often failed in training and in fights. He never gave up and eventually achieved greatness.
UFC champion Israel Adesanya posed like Rock Lee from Naruto in the middle of his fight against former champ Anderson Silva in UFC 234. Israel said in an interview with Joe Rogan afterwards, “Somewhere in the middle of the fight, I was like, ‘Holy …, I’m fighting Anderson Silva! No, no, this is my time!’” So he backed up into the middle of the cage and posed.
Israel continued, “Episode 48 with Rock Lee vs Gara was the first fight that I ever watched that got me into the series (of Naruto). He takes the weights off (his legs) and *****-s up Gara. At the weigh-ins, I did the stance that Rock Lee normally does. Anderson just stood there, with his arms crossed, like Gara. He probably doesn’t even know what that is. It was like when life imitates art without even trying. I’m geeking out right now!”
Joe Rogan said, “There’s nothing wrong with being a nerd, man. Nerds run the world.”
Before Israel’s fights against Robert Whittaker, he mimicked writing Robert’s name in the Death Note before eventually defeating him.
Attack on Titan contains various Mixed Martial Arts moves that many practitioners can recognize. It happens that the creator Hajime Isayama is a fan of MMA. He commented once that he styled Eren’s attack titan after middleweight fighters like Yushin Okami. Within the battle scenes, he drew not only the normal punches and kicks, but Brazilian Jiujitsu.
In season 2 episode 7, Eren does a head-arm triangle choke and leg-sweeps Reiner for a take-down. Then, he gets the mount position seated on top, but Reiner bridges and rolls him off. Eren locks on a triangle choke, with his legs wrapped around Reiner’s neck. Reiner starts to pull the legs away, so Eren switches to an arm bar from bottom. This isolates Reiner’s arm against Eren’s entire body. It would break at the elbow if Eren pushed his hips up!
They eventually roll over and Eren rips off the arm. After a few moment, they both get up and Reiner executes a double-leg wrestling takedown. Now on the ground, Eren is using leg locks to keep Reiner from punching him while standing over him. During that fight, Eren also goes for a guillotine choke from guard.
It was a fast sequence but it excited jiu-jitsu practitioners all over the world.
The anime Kengan Ashura is newer – 2018 – but features different fighting styles realistic to the real world: Muay Thai, Okinawan Karate, Japanese Jiu-jitsu, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, Lethwei boxing with headbutts, and a style from England called Bartitsu.
Fighters love being able to physically fight like their favorite heroes. One Piece is more over the top with supernatural abilities like gear third or fourth, when Luffy can expend his body because he’s a rubber man. However, the fighting spirit is the same – fight hard for what you want or need. Sport fighters get paid to compete, but even non-competing martial artists want the same thing: being able to protect the things or people you love.…