Mad Dog

A story of redemption and absolution, Mad Dog – from Chaos to Comeback documents the hard hitting narrative of Iranian/Swedish mixed martial artist Reza Madadi and a journey of second chances.

Director Mauri R. Chifflet, producer Martin Sandin and project manager Christian Albinsson all self-funded the making of the documentary – which made its international premier on February 4 through online streaming service, Vimeo.

The film opens with a powerful overlooking shot of Asptuna Prison, located in the south of Stockholm. An eerie excerpt begins to play, as Reza Madadi starts to explain the events which lead to his imprisonment. It’s no secret that in the summer of 2013, Madadi was arrested for involvement in the robbery of a Swedish designer handbag store, where a group of masked men stole $150,000 (U.S.) worth of goods. Madadi was later sentenced to one year and nine months in an open prison as an accomplice to the robbery.

Chifflet and co. could easily have decided to create a documentary solely focusing on this, depicting whether or not Madadi was wrongfully convicted. Instead they centre around something far more important and much more resonant – the tale of someone who made a mistake in life and that person’s desire to atone and rebuild themselves for the better.

The first part of ‘Mad Dog’ really delves into the man Reza Madadi; starting with his early life in Tehran. His upbringing as Madadi explains, was ‘no bed of roses’. He had to battle with the death of his father and the ‘brutal’ relationship with his older brother. It is at this early stage that the audience start to become aware of the development Madadi went through at a youthful age, and what shaped him to become the ‘Mad Dog’.

Madadi talks of racism, struggle and adversity; all tribulations on his path to success and acclaim in Sweden as a famous MMA fighter. We are quickly made aware that Madadi is a much more complex character than first meets the eye, of course he’s the ‘Mad Dog’, but as the documentary shows, it’s so much more than that. We see a young boy who couldn’t afford to eat, yet would train for six hours a day, running purely on desire; a yearning to become more than what he was intended to be.

Mad Dog

Something which really gives the documentary an influential edge is the interviews with those closest to Madadi. Of course in any objective documentary, various viewpoints must be established and Chifflet does this expertly. Whether it is training partner and fellow UFC fighter Alexander Gustafsson, manager Tomas Ghassemi or even that of someone who showed great disdain towards Reza such as Norman Parke. Accordingly, all aspects really help shed fundamental light on a man of clockwork complexity.

Madadi’s return bout at UFC Dublin against Parke is such a huge proponent of his comeback story. At one point the 37-year-old could only have dreamed about the opportunity to return to the UFC, but the reality of the situation is what makes his revival story that much more compelling to the audience. In a perfect storybook ending, Madadi would have walked away from Dublin, Ireland victorious, not only inside the cage, but outside of it as well.

Through interactions with his mother, his wife, his children, his coaches, we begin to understand why his fight inside the Octagon is actually part of something much greater. The battle of life. This is really set into motion with the introduction of 11-year-old Marcus, a recovering patient of cancer. This sets the scene for the climax of the film, with the realisation for Madadi that as long as he gave it his everything, win or lose, there will always be ‘another summer’.

UFC Dublin
UFC President Dana White the ‘piggy in the middle’ after showdown erupts between Parke (left) and Madadi.

Of course the ending is not what the director would have hoped for, Madadi losing an antagonising decision to Parke, it is because of this that the final few minutes feels slightly anti-climatic and possibly even unfulfilling. It would have been nice to see a more resolved ending, although Madadi talks about being happy with his life, the final shot feels somewhat rushed and perhaps a longer scene uncovering more footage of him as a family man, delving deeper into the creation of his own gym and preparations for a final hurrah in Sweden this year would have been more fitting.

So many times before have we seen the age old story of redemption and for those outside of the MMA bubble, they may have thought that this documentary would end in a similar manner. As the camera focuses on Madadi one last time, in a dark room, the audience are soon made to realise that the fight wasn’t about winning his return to the UFC, it was about the fight Madadi had to endure on his journey of second chances. Fulfilling his role as a father and a husband, Reza Madadi becomes the man he always believed he could be and that was the true challenge all along.

Morality aside, whether you want to sympathise with Madadi or not for his actions in 2013, the documentary does a stellar job at telling the full story of ‘Mad Dog’ as he seeks one more opportunity at revival. It’s a hard hitting, emotive and enjoyable. The carefully selected music, minimalistic yet effective helps create an empathetic and reflective tone. This, alongside the incredible imagery showcased throughout, all make ‘from Chaos to Comeback’ a thought provoking viewing. In a genre that often lacks true substance, director Chifflet does with  ‘Mad Dog the Movie’ what other films such as ‘Like Water’, ‘Choke’ and ‘Legacy’ struggled to do, it makes you relate to the character of Reza, something which viewers may have found unfathomable before hand.

The documentary is available to purchase on Vimeo.