‘This is Sparta!’: Looking at UFC 300 through the lens of the iconic film ‘300’

It’s finally here. UFC 300, the card we’ve been waiting for all year, is finally upon us. Given the build up, the expectations for this card are through the roof. After all, this is quite possibly the greatest MMA card ever assembled on paper. Will it deliver? Time will tell, but that’s not why we’re here today.

Once upon a time, the UFC found itself in a bind due to COVID-19, and its solution was Fight Island — a magical place where the UFC could continue putting on fights amid a global pandemic. When Fight Island was first announced, fans’ imaginations ran wild. Would the UFC take this opportunity to do something unique and awesome? A Bloodsport-esque arena? A new cage? Some aesthetic changes to delineate Fight Island as its own, unique thing?

The answer was no. While the UFC is a massively successful business, it’s a creatively bankrupt promotion. No fun shall be had in the octagon, just monochromatic MMA action, preferably with faceless Contender Series drones who all make $10,000 to show and $10,000 to win.

But that’s not us. We have fun here at MMA Fighting. When Fight Island was announced, we did MMA Survivor, and so for one of the most anticipated events ever, we’re doing something something similar. It’s time to talk about UFC 300, and to do so through the lens of the 2006 action film 300, based on the graphic novel of the same name from the legendary Frank Miller.

“From the time he could stand, he was baptized in the fire of combat. Taught never to retreat, never to surrender, taught that death on the battlefield in service to Sparta was the greatest glory he could achieve in his life.”

This quote is from the opening scene of the film, as Dilios recounts the childhood of King Leonidas in narration, but really, couldn’t this be easily said about both Justin Gaethje and Max Holloway? There might not be two men in the UFC who have been more baptized by fire. Just look at who they’ve fought, and more importantly, how they fought them. The “BMF” title might not be real, but even so, there aren’t two fighters more deserving of competing for it.

On Saturday, Gaethje and Holloway are going to beat the life out of one another in the People’s Main Event and it’s going to rule. (Mike) Heck, it’s probably going to be Fight of the Year. This weekend, we are all “Blessed.”

“Submission? Now that’s a bit of a problem.”

Leonidas says this in response to the Persian emissary calling for him to submit to Xerxes, shortly before front-kicking the man down the pit of despair. (Iconic scene.) It’s also something I imagine Arman Tsarukyan might say to Charles Oliveira while thumping him from top position on Saturday.

Oliveira is the UFC’s all-time leader in submissions, with 16 of his 22 UFC wins coming by way of tap out. But Tsarukyan has never been submitted, and I have to be honest, I don’t think he ever will be. The man is a tank, and an exceptional grappler, in his own right. And unlike guys like Justin Gaethje and Dustin Poirier, who refused to go to the mat with Oliveira under any circumstances, Tsarukyan is of the Islam Makahachev mold where he’ll be happy to play on the floor with “Do Bronx.”

The inexplicable massive pit in the center of Sparta

Easily the most memorable scene from this entire movie is the above clip where Leonidas punts the dude into a pit that is just sort of there in the middle of an otherwise occupied thoroughfare. Nobody ever explains what the pit is or why it’s there, it’s just a very cool, very weird set piece.

That’s Jalin Turner vs. Renato Moicano. The final fight of the early prelims is awesome. A certified banger. But I still don’t really know what it’s purpose it. In four weeks, the UFC is going to Brazil for a pay-per-view event that looks BAD on paper. That card could desperately use a fight like Turner-Moicano. But for whatever reason, it’s here, and it’s probably going to be cool, even if it makes no sense.

“Come back with your shield, or on it.”

Queen Gorgo says this to Leonidas as he leads his 300 Spartans off to war in defiance of the Carneia, but I’m also fairly certain that this is what Jiri Prochazka’s coaches tell him before every fight.

While UFC 300 features some of the most exciting fighters in the promotion, there may be no greater get-or-get-got guy in the history of MMA than Prochazka — 34 fights into his career, only two have gone to decision. More importantly, all four of Prochaza’s career losses have come by way of finish. Simply put, Prochazka goes out to every fight, and he either comes back with a win, or he goes out on his shield.

“You there, what is your profession?

“I’m a potter, sir.”

“And you, Arcadian, what is your profession?”

“Sculptor, sir.”



“Spartans! What is your profession?


“You see, old friend? I brought more soldiers than you did.”

This is an exchange between Leonidas and Daxos, who leads a group of Arcadian soldier to oppose the Persian advance. It doesn’t exactly fit because UFC 300 is so stacked with talent that just about everybody involved is a top-tier professional fighter, but it definitely reminded me that just a couple of years ago, Alexandre Pantoja was driving Uber to pay the bills, because the UFC pays its athletes a fraction that other sports entities do.

“Immortals. We’ll put their name to the test.”

Leonidas says this about the famed Persian warriors, but in my head it’s what Justin Gaethje thinks when pondering Max Holloway’s impenetrable chin.

“I’ve fought countless times, yet I’ve never met an adversary that can offer me what we Spartans call a beautiful death. I can only hope, with all the world’s warriors gathered against us, there might be one down there who’s up to the task.”

Stelios says this while looking down upon the vast Persian army, but in my head, it’s Max’s chin looking at the prospect of fighting Gaethje.

“My arm!”

“It’s not yours anymore.”

After the Persian scout insults and attempts to attack Stelios, he makes a leap worthy of the Olympics and chops his arm off, leading to this interaction. Coincidentally, the exact same quotes will be heard on Saturday shortly after Kayla Harrison and Holly Holm start fighting.

“We fight as a single, impenetrable unit. That is the source of our strength. Each Spartan protects the man to his left from thigh to neck. A single weak spot and the phalanx shatters.”

Leonidas says this to Ephialtes, the deformed Spartan outcast who attempts to join him in defense of Sparta.

This is pretty obviously Cody Brundage. It wasn’t Ephialtes’s fault he couldn’t fight as well as the other Spartans, he was just born limited. In that same vein, it’s not Brundage’s fault either; he’s just not on the same level as any other person on this card. One of these Spartans is not like the others, and that one is Mr. Brundage.

“This is where we hold them! This is where we fight! This is where they die! Earn these shields, boys! Remember this day, men, for it will be yours for all time!”

Leonidas’ speech to the Spartan soldiers ahead of their first true conflict with the Persian Empire. This goes out our guy Jim Miller, who has been waiting for this day for a long time. UFC 300 is about so many people, but above it all, it’s Jim Miller’s day. Sadly, Bobby Green is the enemy this weekend.

“We do what we were trained to do, what we were bred to do, what we were born to do. No prisoners, no mercy. A good start.”

Dilios in narration after the first battle. This one goes out to Deiveson Figueiredo vs. Cody Garbrandt. It’s not everyday you get an event where the first fight of the evening features two former champions, but that’s just what we have here. Garbrandt and “Figgy Smalls” are going to club each other around until one of them falls down. This is one of my most anticipated fights of the year.

A good start indeed.

“Haven’t you noticed? We’ve been sharing our culture with you all morning.”

When Leonidas meets Xerxes face-to-face to parlay, this is his response to Xerxes calling for peace and shared understanding. This made me think of Aljamain Sterling’s move up to featherweight, and how Calvin Kattar might welcome him to the division, and show him about the culture of 145 pounds. Whether it will be as violent as the Spartan culture remains to be seen, but the outlook is pretty good.

“The world will know that free men stood against a tyrant, that few stood against many, and before this battle was over, that even a god-king can bleed.”

Leonidas says this when he meets Xerxes face-to-face and rejects his offer to serve him.

This one goes out to Nate Quarry, Cung Le, and all the rest of the anti-trust plaintiffs who settled with the UFC last month. The parallels between Dana White and Xerxes are almost too obvious to mention, but just as Leonidas says, in the end, the Persian god-king bled. Granted, it was barely more than a flesh wound, but still, that’s something that no one else ever achieved.

Unfortunately for the sport of MMA, the anti-trust settlement won’t lead to a great uprising of Greek resistance that ultimately defeats the Persian advance. Instead it really is just a scratch, and Saturday will be the great victory feast for Dana White and TKO.

“The personal guard to King Xerxes himself. The Persian warrior elite. The deadliest fighting force in all of Asia: the Immortals.”

Dilios says this in narration right before the first battle between the Immortals and the Spartans. This one goes out to Weili Zhang and Yan Xiaonan. Is it a bit strange that this all-China title fight is taking place in Las Vegas? Yep, sure is. But this fight is still somehow flying under the radar. The current top pound-for-pound female fighter in the sport is about to take on a bona fide No. 1 contender, and like the Immortals, I suspect both women are about to put up one hell of a fight.

Don’t sleep on the co-main event.

“They shout and curse, stabbing wildly. More brawlers than warriors. They make a wondrous mess of things. Brave amateurs, they do their part.”

Dilios talking about the Arcadians who help in the fight against The Immortals, but is also a fitting tribute to Sodiq Yusuff and Diego Lopes. Both men are fine fighters, among the best in their divisions, but they fall short compared to 12 champions and former champions on this card (plus one two-time Olympic gold medalist). More brawlers than warriors, but they do their part.

“Ready your breakfast and eat hearty, for tonight we dine in Hell!”

Leonidas to his soldiers after discovering that Ephialtes betrayed them and led the Persian’s to the goat path, allowing them to outflank the Spartans. But this is also just a great line you, the viewer, ahead of Saturday’s mayhem.

“This will not be over quickly. You will not enjoy this.”

Queen Gorgo says this to Theron after stabbing him in the stomach, and outing him as a traitor. This is also what Jessica Andrade will say to Marina Rodriguez at their face off, right before she bludgeons her around the octagon for 15 minutes or less.

“The old ones say we Spartans are descended from Hercules himself. Bold Leonidas gives testament to our bloodline. His roar is long and loud.”

Dilios says this right before the climactic death of Leonidas (spoiler alert for something that happened 2,500 years ago), but also, this feels just as applicable to Alex Pereira.

At this point would anyone doubt if it came out that Pereira was actually descended from Heracles? The man walks in the light. He won the UFC middleweight title almost as an afterthought and then became a two-division champion on a lark! His battle cry on Saturday will be long and loud, and whether or not he beats Jamahal Hill, he will certainly make Hill bleed.

And that’s good enough I think. We adequately talked all through UFC 300 and Zack Snyder’s only good movie. Now it’s time to sit back and enjoy the show, so I’ll leave you with the same words Leonidas told his men after the rebuffed the first Persian assault and he rejected Xerxes:

Unless I miss my guess, we’re in for one wild night.”

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