Transformers. Real Steel. Robot Jox. Movies that fulfill the boyhood promise of toys like Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em Robots. A promise that one day real robots would really fight. It’s a promise that, until now, has only been possible in the movies or on a small scale, like with Battle Bots. The next step in that robot evolution takes place in 2013 as SyFy has just green lit Robot Combat League, which premieres February 26. Hosted by WWE superstar Chris Jericho, it features large robots very similar to the ones recently seen in Real Steel duking it out, controlled by a shadow boxing operator. See more photos and read a bunch of additional details after the jump.

Entertainment Weekly broke the news of the show, which has already completed shooting its first season. It’s the brainchild of reality TV producer Craig Plestis and robotics expert Mark Setrakian, who designed twelve expensive, unique robots to each be controled by a team – one engineer and one “robo jockey.” Some of the robo jockey’s are soldiers and athletes, including MMA fighter Amanda Lucas, better known as the daughter of Star Wars creator George Lucas. Each is assigned a robot with specific strenghts and weaknesses.

Every fight is then conducted like a blend of boxing and MMA: three rounds but, if one robot gets messed up, the team has 20 minutes to fix it or it’s over. The winners move ahead in a tournament style format with the champion robot claiming $100,000.

So how is this different from Real Steel? The fact that the teams don’t design and build the robots is one thing. Another is that the robots are all anchored by a huge beam. (See below.) So they can’t fall down or jump up, and don’t have a free range of lateral motion. Those design elements just wasn’t possible, though if the show goes into a second season Setrakian hopes to add those elements.

Like most awesome ideas, Robot Combat League isn’t alone. EW reminds us that Mark Burnett and James Cameron have a similar, competing show in the works at Discovery called Robogeddon. Those are some big names, but RCL has the advantage of being ready to go and first to market. (And in the late ’90s and early 2000s there were similar but smaller-scale concepts, such as BattleBots and Robot Wars.)

Robot Combat League debuts on February 26. I’ll be watching for sure.

Here are a bunch of images from the show.

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