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  "If you want to be the best, you have to take down the best."


Jake Tyler is your average boy from Iowa. Except that his dad is dead and as a result, Jake is angry all the time and expends his excess energy by beating the crap out of anyone who makes the slightest comment involving his lack of ongoing male adult influence. His brother is a budding tennis star who gets a scholarship to a good tennis school in Florida. As Jake is in severe trouble at home in Iowa, this is a good move for all involved. Once he arrives in Florida, he finds something new and unexpected: Mixed Martial Arts. Seemingly the entire school is involved in an unofficial MMA club. Yes, the whole school, even the ladies, has a singular obsession with MMA.

As things progress, Jake gets beaten senseless by Ryan, the school's resident Jerkass, in a fight that was unwanted by Jake and instigated by Ryan's innate ability to sense his opponent's Berserk Button and proceed to mash it repeatedly. This fight is Jake's first lesson in MMA. His friend then gets him into formal MMA training, where Jean Roqua teaches Jake how to defeat any opponent. Many matches later, Jake ends up facing Ryan in a one-on-one fight to determine, once and for all, who the better fighter is.

Tropes used in Never Back Down include:

  • Arc Words: "This is my fight. Everyone's got one."
  • Artistic License Martial Arts: The kick Jake uses to finish off Ryan would likely break his own foot if attempted in a real fight.
  • Berserk Button: Mentioning Jake's father or the events surrounding his father's death are two ways to make Jake leap at you with fists raised.
  • Blond Guys Are Evil: Ryan.
  • Blood Knight: Everyone who participates in the Beatdown.
  • Cut Himself Shaving: Jake claims his injuries are due to him "running into a door." Lampshaded by Roqua when he forbids Jake from fighting outside the gym, "no matter how big the door."
  • Defeat Equals Respect
  • Designated Girl Fight: Played With: We first see two girls fighting it out at a party. Moments later, we see "The Battle of the Exes", with a girl kicking the crap out of a guy twice her size.
  • Easily-Distracted Referee: Averted. Ryan cheats by using an eye gouge on his opponent. The ref notices the resulting injury a few seconds later and disqualifies him on the spot.
  • Eye Scream: Ryan performs an eye gouge on an opponent during the semifinal match at the Beatdown.
  • Inevitable Tournament: The Beatdown is mentioned, but Jake says he doesn't want to fight in it. Guess what he ends up doing.
  • I Have No Son: What Roqua's dad told him after his brother was killed as a result of a brawl when they were out at a bar.
  • Klingon Promotion: A non-death example, but all of the characters in the movie see fighting this way. The only way to be the best is to beat all the rest.
  • Moment Killer: Charlie walks in on Jake and Baja making out on his bedroom floor. Baja lamely claims that they were "wrestling."
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Played straighter than Robin Hood's arrows.
  • Reality Ensues: Ryan executes an eyegouge on his opponent when the ref's back is turned. Immediately after the match, the ref notices the other guy's messed up eye and immediately disqualifies Ryan from the tournament.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: The referee at the Beatdown. He checks on Jake after he is injured during a match to make sure he is alright before going into the next round, and disqualifies Ryan on the spot when he uses a forbidden eye gouge during the semifinal match.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: After Ryan is disqualified, Jake forfeits his semifinal match because he was only in the tournament to beat Ryan.
  • Title Drop: Delivered by Roqua during his Rousing Speech.
  • Training From Hell: The Combat 365 gym. Jake is a football player and finds himself struggling to keep up (at least until the Training Montage).
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: Baja suggests that her parents smoked a lot of weed.