Zul Ariffin is thankful his dream to make an MMA movie came true

Ashraf Nasser

Zul Ariffin (L) with co-stars Mira Filzah and Remy Ishak.

In the past few years, Zul Ariffin has experienced a substantial growth in his popularity now that he is no longer known as just a "romantic" actor, instead he is now among the nation's best action stars.

Having starred in various movies since 2010, his characters, however, didn't leave much of an impact on audiences. That is until he starred in 2017's "J Revolusi" as Jay Zulkarnain, a member of The Royal Malaysia Police's Special Actions Unit.

His acting shone through, especially in action scenes, finally capturing audiences' attention. During the same year, he starred in another action flick, "Tombiruo: Penunggu Rimba", which saw him showcasing once again his strength in action-packed acting.

Interestingly, the actor was not "selling" his good looks in the movie, as his face remained hidden behind a mask throughout it as the title character.


Due to his passion for action-packed movies, the actor is set to return to the big screen with his latest action flick, "Sangkar". It is the first local movie that features the globally recognised combat sport known as mixed martials arts (MMA).

Recently, during the movie's launch, Cinema Online had the chance to talk to the actor about his new thrilling work.

Read on to find out what Zul has to say about "Sangkar".


Zul Ariffin revealed that he asked Remy Ishak to punch him for real in one of the fight scenes.

Cinema Online: Is it true that the idea for the movie actually originated from you, how'd that come about?

Zul: That's true! The original idea for the movie came from me and my friend Saiful Reza, because we saw that currently MMA is getting more well known around the world, including in Malaysia. Since we don't have any movies on MMA yet, so I thought why not make one.

How hard was it pitching your idea to producers?

After I came up with the idea, I met with Infinitus Gold producer, Gayatri Su-lin Pillai, to present my idea. I am grateful that her side agreed and what's more exciting is the movie is produced by four local entertainment giants, Infinitus Gold, Primeworks Studios, Astro Shaw and mm2 Entertainment. It's a positive mark for the industry, whereby it can encourage more production companies out there to collaborate in producing a movie. At the same time, actors are also given a chance to contribute their ideas for movies.

How did you prepare for your role and what challenges did you face during filming?

For this movie, I was supposed to have increased my weight to 120 kilograms but due to time constraint, I was only able to reach 93 kilograms. I also underwent boxing training in Thailand prior to filming to master the techniques. What's important is the body looks good on screen.

As for the challenges, as you know this is an action movie so there were no avoiding injuries. But, they were not serious, only that both my knees were bruised because of too much friction with the floor of the fighting ring.

What did you have to do in order to make your fight scenes look believable?

While most of the action scenes, especially the fight scenes, we deployed camera techniques, there are some scenes that we did for real. For example, I asked Remy Ishak, who plays Johan, to really punch my face. I said to Remy, rather than do the scene multiple times, it was better if he just punched my face – to make it more 'real'. So was the fight scene with James 'Sledgehammer' Mcsweeney, I let him beat me for real, though not like how he would do it if he were really in an MMA fight.

And how was it like to work with Remy again after the last time working together nine years ago?

It feels special to be working with him again after last working together in 2010's "Evolusi KL Drift 2". At the time, Remy was already popular while I was only a three-month rookie actor. It is such an honour for me to star alongside Remy in "Sangkar".

What are your hopes for "Sangkar"?

I hope that the movie will get a good reception from audiences, not just from MMA fans but also everyone of all ages, because the movie is not just about MMA but there are also other elements such as drama, love, and friendship. It's a work that encompasses everything that audiences would want.

"Sangkar" (29 August 2019), directed by Kabir Bhatia, stars Zul Ariffin, Remy Ishak, Mira Filzah, Adam Mika, Ray, Fadlan Hazim, Aman Graseka, Carliff Carleel, Andy The, Rashid Salleh and various MMA athletes including Saiful Merican, Peter Davis, James 'Sledgehammer' Mcsweeney and Jihin Radzuan.