In between training sessions at Wild Card Boxing and Unbreakable Performance Center, and cornering fighters in the UFC and Bellator, I’ve worked with a lot of MMA guys doing stunts.
#TyronWoodley, Yves Edwards, Cain Velasquez, Frank Trigg, and Rashad Evans, I’ve hired them all. I’ve also brought MMA guys like Jay Hieron, Emmanuel Newton, Bobby Lashley, and Uriah Hall onto movie projects, so I have a good idea of which fighters will make good stuntmen.
Starting off as a stuntman the late 90s (I got my big breaks doing fight scenes on the TV shows Mortal Kombat and Charmed), I’m part of the Directors Guild of America now, running second unit on features like Circle of Pain and Locked Down.
But, I’ve also worked with Jackie Chan and John Woo, in addition to Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz, and Randy Couture. I remember I met them on Cradle to the Grave; it was a while back.
Coming up as a stuntman and coordinator, I learned from many great martial artists and choreographers to develop my own style. Guys like Corey Yeun (Jet Li’s chreographer), Andy Cheng, and Noon Orsatti all influenced me. Noon even gave me a big break once.
I also learned from working with and watching choreographers like Samo Hung, Jackie Chan, Nicky Li (Jackie Chan's choreograhper).
I’ve had the chance to work with lots of amazing people, and since the stunt business is really small, like everybody knows everybody, it’s important for stuntmen, fighters, and actors to understand timing, spacing, and distance. Sometimes the MMA guys have a hard time adjusting their distance.
They also have trouble pulling their punches sometimes, and I remember an MMA fighter once accidentally popping an actor in the face. I was like “you have to be at least six inches away.”
All of this is really important for directors, because I have to know how to get all the proper angles and cutaways and all that.
One fighter that understood this from the beginning was #KimboSlice.
We hired Kimbo to work on Circle of Pain and he just had a natural gift for acting and selling hits. Kimbo understood proper distancing for movies; out of all the MMA guys, Kimbo was one of the top, in terms of doing stunt fighting cause he really understood how to sell camera, he really understood where camera was, and how to open up for camera. It just seemed very natural to him; he had really good control.
Kimbo was great at the striking aspect to stunt acting, but there's also a grappling element, and grappling is not a very entertaining martial art on film.
There isn’t a lot of moving in grappling, so when I incorporate grappling in fight sequences, I make sure there has to be a clever way of shooting it to make it look intense and entertaining. I make sure when I choreograph fights that there are actual combinations that we throw when we fight, along with actual takedowns and grappling, and different setups, so that the fights look legit. We implement a lot of the MMA techniques into fight sequences.