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Herzfeld prizes fight pic

UFC's Fertittas will exec produce

John Herzfeld will write and direct an untitled film that taps into the no-holds-barred world of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Station Casinos owners Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, who also own UFC, will exec produce the film via their Insomnia Entertainment banner. Insomnia’s Trent Othick will produce.

UFC matches boxers, wrestlers and martial artists from every discipline. The gladiators square off in an octagonal ring in five-minute rounds. They pound, kick and half-nelson each other until one is KO’d or quits. Padding is minimal, and blood is common.

Herzfeld, an amateur fighter from New Jersey before he became a writer and director, said fight choreography has been a priority in his films, from the catfight between Charlize Theron and Teri Hatcher in “Two Days in the Valley” to a scrap between Robert De Niro and former UFC champ Oleg Taktarov in “15 Minutes.” Herzfeld was a good match for the Fertittas, who formed a film division partly to finance pictures that focus attention on their entertainment interests, from casinos to poker. They took over UFC when the sport was on the ropes. UFC is now a major event in such venues as the MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay, and the Fertittas just completed 13 episodes of “The Ultimate Fighter,” a reality series for Spike TV.

“I’ve watched the sport since its inception because I was fascinated by the mix of martial arts styles,” Herzfeld said. “This movie will be about a soldier who returns from the Middle East and works his way up from backroom brawls, bar fights and last-man-standing tournaments, all the way to the UFC.”

Herzfeld plans to cast a star, one who can be believable in the ring, and he will be surrounded by real UFC fighters. The director, who is also developing “Trophy Wife” at Mandalay, hopes to be in production by next summer.

Insomnia will either place the film at a studio or self-finance. Dana White, who runs UFC, will exec produce along with Insomnia’s Tom Breitling.

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