For Greg Jackson, the mixed martial arts instructor who served as the technical adviser on “Warrior,” making sure the training and fighting sequences in the movie felt accurate was only part of his job. He also wanted to help the filmmakers emphasize that MMA fighting is not barbarous but a vehicle for self-improvement.
“The movie shows how it can bond people together,” says Jackson. “People who are angry or troubled. A character like the one Tom Hardy plays is so enraged you can’t talk to him. You aren’t going to put him with a counselor.
“In MMA fighting, you teach guys like this how you control their rage, how to treat people. You save the fighting for other fighters, not for innocent people on the street.”
Hardy and Joel Edgerton play estranged brothers who end up facing each other in the finals of an MMA tournament. Along with Frank Grillo, who plays Edgerton’s trainer, the actors spent time at Jackson’s training school in Albuquerque, N.M.
“I was impressed with their dedication to training,” says Jackson. “Grillo and the director, Gavin O’Connor, constantly called me up and asked technical, psychological and cultural questions. They were dedicated to getting it right, and they did.”
In the film, Grillo trains his fighters to Beethoven, one of Jackson’s techniques. “I like him slightly less than Bach,” says Jackson. “I use classical music because it mirrors the patterns and rhythms of fighting structurally. I save Beethoven’s 9th for after a big win. It’s victory music.”