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'Warrior' aims to be a hit with real-life fighters

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Thursday, June 23, 2011
 

Sports movies generally have two built-in problems to overcome.

First, it's not easy to generate suspense when everybody knows the outcome -- the good guy/underdog tends to win.

Second, you can be the best actor in the world, but if you're not an athlete or have never played the sport, it's immediately obvious to sports fans.

"Warrior" -- which was shot in Pittsburgh in spring 2009 -- tackled the second problem head-on. The two leads, Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton, had no experience with mixed martial arts fighting, so the director surrounded them with real MMA fighters. One of them was Nate "The Great" Marquardt, a rugged, bearded 170-pound welterweight from Wyoming. He's a headliner in Pittsburgh's first-ever UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) event Sunday night at the Consol Energy Center.

This time, Marquardt won't be sparring for the cameras with a movie star. He'll be battling tough welterweight Rick "The Horror" Story as part of a four-fight event that will be broadcast live at 9 p.m. on Versus. Though Story is replacing the injured Anthony "Rumble" Johnson, he's a formidable fighter in his own right.

In "Warrior" -- which is supposed to reach theaters in September -- Marquardt has an extended fight scene with Edgerton, who plays Brendan Conlon, a physics teacher who starts fighting when his family gets into trouble financially.

For a guy who's accustomed to beating his opponents into submission, Marquardt was surprisingly comfortable pulling his punches for the camera.

"When you learn how to fight, when you're sparring, you have to learn how to pull your punches," he says. "You can't just go out and hurt your teammate. You do the same stuff over and over. It's like a dance. And eventually, the dance becomes second-nature."

Edgerton ended up being fairly convincing as a fighter, Marquardt says.

"Honestly, he was great. He was a natural. He looked like a fighter, the way he moved and stuff. I think he could have shot the whole scene himself. We didn't really need a stunt double."

Edgerton had some previous athletic experience, and trained extremely hard in Pittsburgh for the role. His style was supposed to be more technical than overpowering, his moves based on jujitsu.

Marquardt says that some knowledge of Brazilian jujitsu, with its emphasis on ground combat, is almost essential for a successful MMA fighter.

"If you don't know Brazilian jujitsu, it's very easy to get you on the ground," Marquardt says. "So, you have to know it. If you don't, you're going to be put on your back and choked out.

"I'm a very well-rounded fighter. I have a black belt in Brazilian jujitsu, but I also have several knockouts in the UFC. I guess my fight style is that I'm very technical, but I like to fight. I like to do damage to my opponent. I feel that's the best way to win -- to do damage."

Additional Information:

UFC Ultimate Fighting Championship Live

When: 4:55 p.m. Sunday

Admission: $52.50-$262.50

Where: Consol Energy Center, Uptown

Details: 800-745-3000

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