Syfy Announces Real Steel-Style Robot Fighting Show

By David Wharton | Updated

Whether you liked Hugh Jackman’s robot-boxing flick Real Steel or not, you have to love the core concept: remote-controlled robots beating the ever-loving snot out of each other. It takes the brutal appeal of boxing or MMA fighting but adds the ability to punch your opponent’s head off or rip his arms out of their sockets. We are still not at Real Steel levels of tech, but we just inched a little closer. Syfy has unveiled a new robot-fighting series called Robot Combat League that is, for all intents and purposes, Real Steel: The Reality Show.

Robot-on-robot combat is hardly new, or even new to TV. I’m sure many of our readers have fond memories of the BBC’s Robot Wars or Comedy Central’s Battle Bots. This is a whole other level than those scrappy, small-scale ‘bots, however. Robot Combat League features real, bipedal robots punching the crap out of each other while controlled by the movements of shadow-boxing human fighters…yep, just like in Real Steel.

The series was created by reality show producer Craig Plestis and robotics expert Mark Setrakian, who has extensive experience creating ‘bot tech for a variety of uses. Each of the eight-foot-tall, 1,000 pound ‘bots are controlled by a two-person team: one fighter “robo-jockey” and a “robo-engineer,” and together they’ll be competing for a $100,000 prize. (Weird footnote: one of the robo-jocks is Amanda Lucas, an MMA fighter who just happens to be the daughter of one George Lucas. Talk about an unlikely sci-fi pedigree…) And while the RCL ‘bots aren’t quite as impressive as their Real Steel forbears — they have a stabilizing rod to keep them upright, for example — the robots can still unleash robotic carnage unlike anything we’ve seen before in the real world.

Syfy president Mark Stern told EW:

‘Up until we actually saw them in the ring fighting, we didn’t think it would work … Setrakian created a robotics system that can mimic a human’s actions and movements. We’ve had robots decapitated, we’ve had robots cut in half. It was truly spectacular.

If you’re like me, they had you at “robot decapitations.” Robot Combat League will premiere February 26th on Syfy.