Are Tommy and Brendan Based on Real MMA Fighters? Is Sparta a Real Tournament?

Directed by Gavin O’Connor, ‘Warrior’ is a sports film that revolves around the life of two estranged brothers, Tommy (Tom Hardy) and Brendan Conlon (Joel Edgerton). The brothers compete against each other in Sparta, a winner-takes-all MMA tournament, for the prize money of $5 million. The film progresses through Tommy and Brendan’s preparation for the tournament and their enthralling fights to be the last man standing in Sparta. The brothers’ spellbinding saga makes one wonder whether they are based on real-life mixed martial arts fighters. If you are curious about the same, we come bearing answers!

Are Tommy and Brendan Based on Real MMA Fighters?

No, Tommy and Brendan are not based on real MMA fighters. The narrative of ‘Warrior’ originated from co-writer and director Gavin O’Connor’s desire to conceive a film in the backdrop of mixed martial arts upon getting introduced to the sport during the production of his documentary ‘The Smashing Machine.’ His passion for the sport led him to conceive the fictional narrative and characters of the film.

Even though Tommy and Brendan are not based on any real MMA fighters, parallels can be drawn between real-life figures and them. Brendan’s teaching job and part-time fights to sustain his family’s livelihood do resemble the life of MMA fighter Rich “Ace” Franklin. The former UFC champion reportedly fought cage fights to make additional money. However, the creators of the film haven’t stated or talked about Franklin’s life being an inspiration and the minor similarities can be coincidental.

As per reports, the specific detail of Tommy rescuing a fellow Marine Corps officer in his past is inspired by the life of United States Marine Sergeant Ewan G.P. Pennington. Apart from that detail, Tommy is fictitious and is not based on any real-life mixed martial artist. The characterizations and storylines of Tommy and Brendan are the results of O’Connor’s idea to depict a story about the healing and forgiveness of two estranged brothers in the backdrop of mixed martial arts.

Is Sparta a Real Tournament?

No, Sparta is not a real tournament. Even though the name of the tournament does resemble the MMA event Sparta Combat League, the tournament was originally conceived by O’Connor for the film. According to the director, the Japanese MMA tournaments inspired him to come up with Sparta. Rather than following the regular pattern of UFC, O’Connor decided to create his own tournament for the narrative of the film.

“[…] I took a page out of these Pride and K1 tournaments in Japan, where they did the Grand Prix tournaments. […] I was trying to get away from the UFC as much as possible. Not because I don’t like the UFC—I think they’re awesome—but just creatively I just wanted to create my own world, and my own tournament. And then as I said, the Grand Prix tournaments, which they don’t do in the states, I’ve seen and read about because they’re very popular in Japan,” he said to GQ in September 2011. Sparta’s deviation from UFC or other American mixed martial arts events plays a pivotal role in the film’s engrossing drama. O’Connor’s attention to detail in conceiving the tournament makes it unique and enthralling.

Read More: Who Wins Sparta at the End of Warrior?