“Fiercely moving,” boasts the poster for Lionsgate’s “Warrior.” And the same could be said of Gavin O’Connor’s introductory speech, which the helmer delivered as he fought back tears at the Arc-Light in Hollywood.

“We shopped the script around, and I can tell you that everyone in this town passed on it. Every studio, every film financier,” lamented O’Connor, who found the movie an appropriate home in the end. “‘Warrior’ is an underdog film, and I look at Lionsgate beautifully as an underdog studio.”

At Tuesday’s afterparty at Boulevard 3, O’Connor said his pic was “a love letter” to mixed martial arts. “Some people have a certain preconception of MMA, and I think this movie will help people view it in a different way. I always liked the idea of these two brothers on a collision course and to use this cage as an intervention, where one brother saves the other brother’s life and heals a family while beating the shit out of him because they grew up communicating through violence.”

Lionsgate’s Joe Drake says the pic’s strong word of mouth will help to knock out the competish.

“We spend every weekend putting ads on TV telling people, ‘This is great! See this!’ but we always felt this was one the audience had to pick up on its shoulders and carry to the finish line,” Drake said. “It’s a movie that has to be discovered.”