Is Warrior Based on a True Story?

Gavin O’Connor’s sports film ‘Warrior’ centers around Tommy (Tom Hardy) and Brendan Conlon (Joel Edgerton), two estranged brothers who enter the same mixed martial arts competition to turn their lives around. While Tommy deals with the responsibilities of his late brother-in-arms’ family, Brendan struggles with the mortgage of his house. Both of them enter into the tournament to fulfill their responsibilities.

Along with enthralling MMA action, the film also offers a moving drama that revolves around a turbulent family. As the emotional rollercoaster reaches its climax, viewers can’t help but be curious about the film’s real-life connections. On that note, here’s everything you need to know about the film’s origin!

Is Warrior Based on a True Story?

No, ‘Warrior’ is not based on a true story. The screenplay — written by Gavin O’Connor, Anthony Tambakis, and Cliff Dorfman — is entirely fictional and conceived originally for the film. According to co-writer and director Gavin O’Connor, ‘Warrior’ originated from “something” from his personal life. “I think the idea or the understanding of forgiveness was something I was really trying to get a grasp of, and when I say that I don’t mean just the words but like, true forgiveness in your heart,” he said to GQ.

Along with the theme of forgiveness, the backdrop of mixed martial arts also comes from O’Connor’s personal life. “I think simultaneously the idea of exploring mid martial arts as a backdrop in a film became alluring to me because I’m a fan of the sport and I’ve been following it for a while, and I haven’t really seen it in cinema before,” he added. The story of two estranged brothers subsequently got added to the idea O’Connor was developing. For the director, the idea also proposed the question of how to “heal and forgive,” which influenced the conflicts between Tommy, Brendan, and their father.

The next challenge before O’Connor was to conceive the tournament and the conflict of two brothers fighting in a winner-takes-all competition, the core of the sports drama. “[…] I took a page out of these Pride and K1 tournaments in Japan, where they did the Grand Prix tournaments. But these guys [Tommy and Brendan] are on a collision course to fight each other, and then when they have to step into the cage for the middleweight championship of the world, now who are you rooting for? And that to me was an interesting challenge as a filmmaker, because I can’t remember ever seeing that before, where you’re asked now to choose,” he said to GQ.

Even though the film is fictional, parallels between characters and real-life figures can be drawn. The life of former UFC middleweight champion Rich “Ace” Franklin, who was a high school teacher, does resemble Brendan’s life as a teacher. As per reports, the life of United States Marine Sergeant Ewan G.P. Pennington partially inspired Tommy’s Marine Corps past. Frank Grillo, who portrays Frank Campana, was reportedly inspired by MMA trainer Greg Jackson to conceive his performance. The “unbeatable” Koba in the film does resemble Fedor Emelianenko, a Russian heavyweight mixed martial artist. Bryan Callen’s commentator character reminds us of UFC commentator Joe Rogan.

Although the narrative of ‘Warrior’ is indeed fictional, the film features numerous real-life MMA fighters and combat sports figures such as Kurt Angle, Nate Marquardt, Anthony Johnson, Roan Carneiro, Yves Edwards, Amir Perets, and Dan Caldwell. Such addition of real-life fighters increases the authenticity of the film and places it closer to reality.

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