In making the upcoming film Warrior, director Gavin O'Connor found himself needing someone who could convincingly play Koba, an unstoppable monster of a mixed martial arts fighter. He needed someone who could come off cold-blooded. Oh, and the guy needed to be believable as an Olympic gold medalist wrestler, and if he could pick up fight choreography in a hurry, that'd be ideal.Enter Kurt Angle.The 1996 freestyle wrestling Gold medalist (100kg division), Angle has gone on to a successful career in the world of professional wrestling. Angle himself told us that stepping into the role of Koba was a natural fit."Gavin O' Connor... and Greg O'Connor the producer really they started to question me: 'How are you going to wrestle for IMPACT WRESTLING and also do this movie?' And I said, 'Guys, I'm a pro wrestler. Whatever techniques, whatever choreography you need me to learn, you can teach one guy in a month, I'll learn it in one day."It's a bold claim, but Angle was as good as his word."I literally learned every fight in one day. Every time I did it, I nailed it. It wasn't that hard for me, because I'm in the world of pro wrestling and choreography. It came to me very easily and they were very surprised."A famous pro wrestler may not sound like the most obvious choice to play a mixed martial arts fighter. But as he told us, his background in the over-the-top world of professional wrestling suited him well, especially compared to fighters who didn't have his experience in the IMPACT WRESTLING ring."It was harder for them because they wanted to go by their instinct instead of by what their choreography was. So it took them more time to learn than me... I was very happy, very proud that I could prove to Gavin and Greg O'Connor that I could do that part with limited teaching."Though it may have been limited teaching, Angle couldn't do it alone. Just as any actor prepares for a role, Kurt Angle found himself training to play Koba by working with one of the biggest names in the fight game to make sure his MMA techniques were believable."I trained at the Pittsburgh Fight Club and I also spent some time with Greg Jackson... he helped me quite a bit with my striking technique," Angle told Spike. "And I have to give credit to (stunt coordinator) J.J. Perry... He does all the (Sylvester) Stallone movies and he did "Walker Texas Ranger" for 15 years. He's incredible."Having one of the best trainers in the sport working with him was obviously useful, and Angle worked with the filmmakers to create a character that fit Angle's knowledge base and skill set."I wanted to be a wrestler, striker, and a ground and pounder... I was going to base my fighting on conditioning, wearing my opponent down and grounding and pounding him."Angle proved during the making of Warrior that he's still a quick learner, picking up an entire new discipline with relative ease."My jiu-jitsu came very quickly, which is odd for a wrestler since we're not used to being on our backs. But my weak thing was putting guys away by submission... You can only learn so much, and if you learn too much of everything, you take away from your master technique, and my master technique is wrestling. And I became a great striker, so I had two tools that I thought would be very impactful in the UFC if I chose to do that."With such a decorated career in wrestling combined with a Spartan work ethic and ability to pick things up quickly, one might guess Angle would make the transition from professional wrestling to MMA. But don't expect him to take the Brock Lesnar route."Dana White gave me every opportunity to do that at a different time and for a lot of money. Probably more money than he ever gave anyone else... I don't want to talk about it but the terms weren't good for me, my terms weren't good for him and we just had to settle and say 'Come back when you're done pro wrestling'."A career in mixed martial arts is ultimately not in the cards for Angle, but appearing in a movie like Warrior is another accomplishment that he can add to his long list. He hopes the movie will connect with MMA and pro wrestling fans alike in a positive light."I'm just proud to be a part of it. I have to give credit to the other actors, they just blew me away."
Warrior opens September 9 in theaters across the U.S. and Canada.
Photo: Impact Wrestling