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After 30 years of trying, Jean-Claude Van Damme is coming to Mortal Kombat

The man behind Johnny Cage will be... Johnny Cage

Jean-Claude Van Damme does a split on the red carpet at Disneyland Paris in 1992
Jean-Claude Van Damme at Euro Disney in 1992, when he could have been in Mortal Kombat instead
Photo: Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images

Mortal Kombat 1, the next game in NetherRealm’s 30-year-old fighting game franchise, is traveling back in time, centuries before the events of the known Mortal Kombat timeline. Despite that time shift, series staple Johnny Cage will make his way to the roster alongside ye olde ancient fighters like Raiden, Mileena, Kitana, and Kung Lao.

Even more intriguing is the fact that actor Jean-Claude Van Damme will make an appearance as Johnny Cage in MK1, thanks to a character skin.

Van Damme’s appearance in Mortal Kombat 1 closes a specific loop in MK’s history, because the Belgian martial artist was partly the inspiration for the original Mortal Kombat and its Hollywood hero, Johnny Cage.

“He was supposed to be Johnny Cage,” Mortal Kombat series co-creator Ed Boon said in an interview with Otto Mankitap last year. Developers at Midway pitched the idea to Van Damme, but it never panned out, Boon said: “We took images of Bloodsport and talked about digitized graphics and how it’s going to be [Van Damme] in the game. At some point he passed. But we later inquired, maybe a couple of times, as recently as, like, [Mortal Kombat 9], if he wanted to be in a skin of the game. For some reason, it just never came through.” Apparently, Van Damme has changed his mind.

“The fiction behind Mortal Kombat was kind of already in development even prior to us chatting with Van Damme, and when he ended up not being involved, we just kind of marched ahead,” series co-creator John Tobias said in 2019. “So the idea of his involvement was he was either going to play himself in the game, in the fiction of the game, or he was going to play a character in the fiction of the game. His character is eventually what became Johnny Cage.”

Cage would ultimately be played by martial artist Daniel Pesina in the first two Mortal Kombat games, and by Linden Ashby in the 1995 Mortal Kombat film adaptation. (Ashby would later reprise his role as Cage in Mortal Kombat 11, thanks to NetherRealm’s Klassic MK Movie skin pack.) Actor Karl Urban will reportedly embody Cage in the sequel to 2023’s Mortal Kombat movie.

How will Johnny Cage, or some ancestor of his, find his way hundreds of years into the past? That — and whether Van Damme will voice a version of Cage — remains to be seen, but will be revealed when Mortal Kombat 1 launches this September.

Van Damme’s Cage skin will be included with the game’s Kombat Pack add-on, which is included with the Mortal Kombat 1 Premium Edition (priced at $109.99) and Kollector’s Edition (priced at $249.99). The standard edition of Mortal Kombat 1 will cost $69.99 on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, and Xbox Series X.

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