The 1990s were a wild time. Bill Clinton was in The White House, Spice Girls freely roamed the Earth, and apparently Jean-Claude Van Damme was trying to fight people at parties. At least that is according to fellow legendary action movie star Sylvester Stallone. As the star of Cliffhanger and Demolition Man tells it, he threw a party in 1997 at which both Van Damme and yet another action star, Aikido expert Steven Seagal, was present. At some point in the evening, Van Damme got upset and challenged Seagal to a one-on-one fight in Stallone’s backyard. Reportedly, Van Damme had caught wind that Seagal had been telling people that he could take the Bloodsport star in a fight and got fed up. While this sounds more like the kind of scenario you would expect from 14-year-old boys hopped up on Jolt Soda, apparently this is what happened.
But it did not end there. While Stallone says Steven Seagal made excuses and left the party, Jean-Claude Van Damme followed him, insisting on a fight. Stallone also went on to claim that he was sure Van Damme would have won and Seagal was not up for the fight. All of this is Hollywood lore, but there is no reason to think Stallone would be exaggerating any of it. Seagal is well-known for frequently and loudly claiming that he could defeat any fighter you could name, including Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris. He was so notorious for disrespecting other martial artists that a group of well-known kickboxers and karate champions banded together and collectively called out the Under Siege star to face any of them. Despite his claims, Seagal never responded to any of their challenges. And while we won’t throw any specific shade here, Van Damme has a public record of dozens of victories in both full- and semi-contact martial arts championships, while Seagal…less so.
For his part, Jean-Claude Van Damme was himself known for his volatility and (according to himself) arrogance at the time. His publicly admitted substance abuse issues were at their height right around that period in the 1990s, and it is likely that neither Van Damme nor Seagal came off particularly well in their interactions at Stallone’s party. Of course, Van Damme apparently once broke into Stallone’s house in order to meet the action legend, so it seems that the Rambo star was just pretty okay with this kind of behavior.
Since their 1990s heyday, both Jean-Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal saw their stardom waning. In recent decades, both have become staples of direct-to-DVD action movies (which, hey, it’s work). Van Damme has become notably philosophical and self-aware of his previous career and behavior, and has played a latter-day, broken-down version of himself in several films, including the well-received JCVD. He has announced his retirement from action films with next year’s What’s My Name?, in which he will play an amnesiac version of himself encountering versions of his past famous fights. Seagal has been a citizen of the Russian Federation since 2016, and vocal in his support of the Putin-led Kremlin.