Christian Gudegast To Write & Direct Film On MMA Fighter Royce Gracie & The Birth Of The UFC For Tucker Tooley Entertainment

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EXCLUSIVE: As production on his new actioner Den of Thieves 2: Pantera continues, Christian Gudegast has been set to write and direct a new film on mixed martial artist Royce Gracie and the birth of the Ultimate Fighting Championship for frequent partner Tucker Tooley Entertainment.

The Untitled Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Project takes place on the night that Gracie proved Brazilian Jiu-jitsu as the most effective fighting style, one that would ultimately become a major component of today’s UFC mixed martial arts. It more specifically chronicles Gracie’s debut in UFC 1 on November 12, 1993, when the fighter achieved the unthinkable during the organization’s inaugural competition. This night that had him besting three competitors is considered to be that on which the UFC was born.

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Derived from Japanese jiu-jitsu, which is rooted in samurai traditions, Gracie Jiu-jitsu formed in Brazil in the 1920s when Japanese fighter Mitsuyo Maeda moved from Japan to Brazil and began training Royce’s uncle, Carlos Gracie. It was Carlos — along with his younger brother Hélio, who fathered Royce — that carried on the tradition across their family and propelled the sport to international fame.

Tucker Tooley (We’re The Millers, Den of Thieves) will produce the new film, with Gracie, Gudegast and Frederico Lapenda to serve as executive producers.

Said Gracie of the fight night the project will examine, “I remember every detail of that night, the intensity of it was palpable but even then I did not appreciate the incredible impact that it would have and the significance that it would carry for years to come, not just for me but for the world of martial arts. Everything I am is because of jiu-jitsu and I’m excited for the world to hear my story.”

“Before Royce Gracie fought in the first UFC, the established fighting world was completely centered on boxing. As the world watched him defeat three fighting champions in one night using his family’s Gracie Jiu-Jitsu method, the UFC was born,” noted Tooley. “The significance of the moment was to the fight world what N.W.A releasing Straight Outta Compton was to the hip hop world – a seismic shift that gave birth to a new and profound genre.”

Remarked Gudegast, who has a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, “I have thought about telling this story for 25 years after witnessing UFC1 and being in awe of it, and at the same time having had the honor of training Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Vale Tudo with Royce’s family ever since. I believe what Royce accomplished that night is one of the most extraordinary athletic achievements of all time. He and his family are endlessly fascinating, as they embody a true samurai spirit that is from another time. I have nothing but absolute maximum respect for Royce as a man and warrior, and for all the Gracies as the Godfathers of martial arts.”

Gudegast made his directorial debut with the action thriller Den of Thieves, starring Gerard Butler and O’Shea Jackson, Jr., and is currently in the Canary Islands filming the sequel. He was also a writer on Butler’s London Has Fallen and exec produce Lionsgate’s recent action thriller Plane, starring Butler and Mike Colter, which grossed over $52M upon its January release.

Founded by former Relativity President Tooley and Greg Renker, Tucker Tooley Entertainment’s films have thus far grossed more than $2.5B at the worldwide box office. In addition to Den of Thieves 2: Pantera, the company’s recent projects include Lee Daniels’ forthcoming Netflix horror thriller The Deliverance, starring Andra Day; the upcoming Arthur the King starring Mark Wahlberg; Concrete Cowboy for Netflix starring Idris Elba; and Daniels’ The United States vs. Billie Holiday for Hulu, which brought Day her first Academy Award nomination.

Tooley is a Member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, as well as the Producers Guild of America. Among his other best known individual producing credits over the last decade are such titles as Shot Caller, CBS’s Limitless and the film that preceded it, Jane Got a Gun, Beyond the Lights, Out of the Furnace, Oculus, We’re the Millers, 21 & Over and Don Jon.

Gudegast is represented by Entertainment 360 and Goodman, Genow, Schenkman.

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