In its third season launch on May 31, AT&T Audience Network’s martial arts drama series Kingdom will jump ahead time-wise from the Season 2 wrapper, in which various relationships split apart, creator/writer/EP/showrunner Byron Balasco told TV critics, kicking off the first Q&A panel of TCA Winter 2017.

DirecTV's 'Kingdom' Panel at the TCA Winter Press Tour, Day 1, Pasadena, USA - 05 Jan 2017
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But TV critics wanted to talk about how much more buttoned-down and corporate MMA had become since the series launched. They wondered how that impacts what stories he can tell. Balasco dismissed the notion, insisting MMA still is like the wild west, and there still “is a lot of fluidity in the sport now, which is exciting.”

“The people participating are still the same people,” Balasco countered, when critics described MMA as being less of an “outlaw” sport these days.

“You can legitimize and corporate-ize” the sport “but you’re never going to change the fact that fighters are fighters….They have the same challenges as you or I or anybody else but they’re living on the edge and it’s an extreme way to live and a difficult, violent world,” he countered.

Kingdom Season 2
Audience Network

Balasco got interested in the subject “a long time ago when I was at Blockbuster, looking for a Faces of Death” video and found a UFC video instead, he acknowledged. “I watched it and was really enthralled by the idea…of no rules, and people from different disciplines fighting, and no weight classes” and fights that never seemed to turn out as he had expected. “It was a straight up intense way to spend a couple of hours.”

Kingdom stars Frank Grillo as a former MMA mixed martial arts fighter trying to keep his gym in business. Kiele Sanchez, Matt Lauria, Jonathan Tucker, Nick Jonas, Joanna Going and Natalie Martinez also star. Last month 12 Monkeys star Kirk Acevedo signed on for a recurring role in Season 3.  Kingdom is produced by Endemol Shine Studios and distributed internationally by Endemol Shine International.