We had to wipe blood and sweat off the lens after that war.
—BJ Verot, filmmaker
For BJ Verot, a local filmmaker and avid mixed martial arts fan, combining both interests just made sense.
"I find combat sports, and in particular, MMA, very interesting because
it's such an uncommon activity for the average person to even consider
trying," he says. "It takes a very unique person to willingly engage in a sport,
that at any moment, can disconnect them from consciousness."
Joe Doerksen celebrates a win. (courtesy Strata Studios)
Picking a subject for his latest film, Scheduled Violence
, was easy, considering that Winnipeg is home to a man with more professional fights under his belt than any other Canadian athlete.
And when Verot started working on the film, Joe "El Dirte" Doerksen was at a turning point in his career.
"He was just cut from the UFC,
easily the biggest promotion in MMA sports, and was considering
retirement," Verot explains.
"It's a very interesting time when a fighter is
nearing the end of their career because only they know how much they
have left to give in the cage. Joe decided it was time to make a final
run, and he wasn't going down without a fight. The stakes would never
Verot dips in and out of Doerksen's life, talks to his friends, trainers and even visits his parents in New Bothwell, MB, who don't seem to understand how their kindhearted little boy ended up punching people in the face for a living. But they're proud of him anyway.
For Verot, part of the attraction of documenting elements like Doerksen's gruelling training schedule was getting behind the scenes of a world that fighting fans don't get to see.
"[It] offers a glimpse into how
hard these athletes train. People go to an MMA event to watch two people
fight for a very brief amount of time, but the weeks of preparation
that go into that one moment is staggering. Especially when you consider
than all of that training and effort could easily end 10 seconds into
the fight from a 'lucky' punch."
The film strikes a balance between telling the story of what drew Doerksen to professional fighting, and showing some of his battles. For Verot, the biggest surprise came in the heat of one of those fights, when all the careful planning and preparation was left ringside.
"I've seen more than my share of fights, but when Doerksen fought Joel Powell in Calgary at the Aggression Fighting Championships event, it was chaos," Verot says.
"The fighters' game plans went out the window and both guys were swinging for the fences. Even I was caught off-guard at the raw brutality of that particular bout. It was one of the best fights I've ever seen, and I had the privilege to see up close and personal."
"We had to wipe blood and sweat off the lens after that war."Scheduled Violence screens August 27th at Cinematheque and you can see Joe Doerksen in action on September 13th at the Winnipeg Convention Centre for CFC 8.