By Dale Mann
NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. – Erik Hibler’s Crafton gym, Pittsburgh Fight Club, has been chosen as the setting for the movie, Warrior, for which Hibler has been training fighters and stuntmen over the past two months, he said in a phone interview on Thursday.
According to Hibler, Lion’s Gate Studios had originally planned to shoot the fight scenes in his gym; however, due to limited space for their filming equipment, have chosen instead to replicate The Pittsburgh Fight Club inside of the Petersen Event Center, where filming is scheduled to begin this week.
Meg Halsey of the extras casting office of SS3 Productions and Lion’s Gate Studios told The Pride via telephone on Friday that shooting for the film, entitled Warrior, will take place throughout the Pittsburgh area from April 20 until the end of June.
The Pittsburgh Fight Club, according to Hibler, is being replicated because it is no ordinary gym, and he, himself, is no ordinary trainer. He’s a former professional mixed martial arts fighter and has been training in the martial arts since he was 7 years-old.
“I’m very unorthodox,” Hibler admits, “I don’t follow a style or system particular to someone else. I invent things as I need them to get the job done.”
Hibler is versed in kickboxing, thai-boxing, jujitsu, and shoot fighting, among other disciplines, and coaches his own amateur MMA team in competition.
He describes his gym as an MMA combat training center which trains fighters for both professional and amateur competition.
While Fight Club is opened to public tryouts, Hibler stresses the importance of being part of a team, warning, “You have to come in and prove yourself, and everybody has to like you. If I don’t like somebody or they don’t seem to fit in, I just get rid of them.”
The gym is a virtual what’s-what of mixed martial arts training. Hibler’s 10,000 ft. dojo, stocked with a boxing ring, a floating jujitsu deck, numerous heavy bags and, of course, an octagon, beat out gyms throughout the United States and Canada as Lion’s Gate’s selection as a backdrop, he said.
“My gym’s laid out to give them everything that they need professionally,” said Hibler of the $30 M film’s choice. He describes the film as the MMA version of Rocky and believes that it has the potential to be the first successful MMA mainstream film.
Success didn’t come overnight for Hibler. He’d been training fighters prior to the universal appeal of MMA. “I’m like a pioneer around here,” he said, “I’ve tried to fill in the niche for MMA in Western Pennsylvania.”
“I had a garage gym just like most people do here,” said Hibler. It wasn’t until the success of the television show Ultimate Fighter when Hibler said that he believed that he could attract enough attention to operate a fully equipped MMA gym and construct a weight class-tiered team.
Beyond his own resume, Hibler’s reputation can be verified by those who surround him. His lead trainer is currently the featherweight champion of the Ring of Combat MMA organization and, according to Hibler, his list of clients includes professional wrestler, soon-to-be UFC fighter and Pittsburgh’s former Olympic Champion, Kurt Angle.
Warrior is slated to star Nick Nolte, Tom Hardy, and Joel Edgerton and will be directed by Gavin O’Connor, according to the Internet Movie Database.
Set in Pittsburgh, the film portrays Nolte as a former Vietnam vet and steel worker who trains his youngest son for MMA competition. The film culminates in a brother versus brother scenario, pitting Hardy against Edgerton, according to IMDB.com.
Although all of the film’s shooting locations haven’t yet been determined, extras casting calls have been issued for the Pittsburgh-based project, said Halsey.
When asked if he would be making a cameo in the film, Hibler coyly remarked, “I’m sure I’m gonna be in there somewhere.”