Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson gushes over Oleksandr Usyk as heavyweight champion joins MMA film

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has talked up the “honour” of working with Oleksandr Usyk, as the undisputed heavyweight boxing champion joins the cast of The Smashing Machine.

The biopic, which is set for a late 2024 release, will tell the story of mixed martial arts legend Mark Kerr – who was nicknamed “The Smashing Machine” and will be played by Johnson.

Usyk, who became undisputed heavyweight champion in May, has joined the film’s cast as former MMA fighter Igor Vovchanchyn.

Vovchanchyn, whom Kerr fought in 1999 and 2000, is from Ukraine like Usyk, who secured undisputed status at heavyweight by beating Tyson Fury in Saudi Arabia. Usyk, 37, previously reigned as undisputed cruiserweight champion.

“Don’t break my jaw champ,” Johnson joked on Instagram on Monday (3 June). “An honor to have the newly crowned Undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World @usykaa join our cast of ‘The Smashing Machine’.

“Usyk will play the role of Igor Vovchanchyn - the real life Ukrainian MMA legend who had legendary fights during the extreme no holds barred era of Mixed Martial Arts and one historic fight against the Smashing Machine himself, Mark Kerr.

“I have huge respect for Oleksandr Usyk and [it] will be my honor to share the ring with him - as he knocks my jaw into next week. Looking forward to working with you my brother.”

American Kerr, 55, won two UFC heavyweight championship tournaments, triumphing in July and October 1997.

He retired from fighting in 2009, having lost 12 of his last 15 bouts – including his rematch with Vovchanchyn, who outpointed Kerr after the pair’s initial No Contest.

Usyk is set for a rematch with Fury in December.