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UFC fighters in Kingdom: Can the cast of the show really fight?

Anwesha Nag
Modified 22 Nov 2020, 03:13 IST

Is Matt Lauria a real MMA or UFC fighter?

Matt Lauria as Ryan Wheeler on
Matt Lauria as Ryan Wheeler on 'Kingdom'

In Kingdom, Matt Lauria plays the character of an MMA champion-turned-felon named Ryan Wheeler. His character is a complex one, both in terms of Wheeler's own personality and his relationship with other characters.

Wheeler is the ex-boyfriend of Kiele Sanchez's character Lisa Prince, who is now with Frank Grillo's Alvey Kulina.

"It’s a highly complicated and psychological character, who’s multidimensional. There are so many conflicting aspects of what composes this guy. You hear it throughout the pilot, these stories of glory of this monster of a man. In this world of MMA, I think those who can be professional are exceptional; those who now have a winning record and can be professional are a notch above that; and then there are very few who are the type of champion who Ryan was." (Via: Variety)

As mentioned before, none of the show's main cast were MMA or UFC fighters, including Lauria. In fact, he revealed in interviews related to the show that he was not a fan of UFC or MMA in general before he played this character. But he became an "obsessed fan" afterwards.

Lauria said that he based his character on UFC Champion Georges St-Pierre and Rory MacDonald, and that Matt Hughes, Johny Hendricks, and Chad Mendes were the inspiration for his wrestling skills.

Lauria trained with Bellator Bantamweight Champion Juan Archuleta for the second season (Via Men's Journal).

"Not much (a fan of MMA or UFC before the show) at all, but now I’m an obsessed fan. I’m lucky that I get to call watching fight clips research. Sometimes when I’m completely spent after a workout, and have nothing left to give, I can throw highlights on the screen, make a protein shake, and feel good that I am still technically “working.” Every season I learn more. During the second one I did my fighter training with Juan Archuleta, who’s on the show but a true fighter and prolific underground fighter. Training in a garage, just wrestling and grinding it out. That was amazing."

Matt Lauria previously played the role of an athlete on Friday Nights Lights, but it was nothing compared to the kind of training he had to go through to get into the physique of a former MMA Champion.

A year before getting on board for this role, Lauria had also turned vegan, and had to find trainers who worked with vegan diets. For the first season, he found Chad Byers, and for the second, Jen Widerstrom.

Byron Balasco put a lot of thought into each of the actor's tattoos as well, since tattoos are often a big part of an UFC fighter's personality.

Lauria's character Ryan Wheeler had quite a few tattoos, including one that said 'Destroyer' across his chest similar to how former UFC two-division Champ Conor McGregor has his last name written across his abs. Wheeler also had a downward facing sword on his back, which was influenced by "an MMA fighter who had a sword on his chest pointing up", per Entertainment.

It is likely that former UFC Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar and the sword tattoo on his chest was the inspiration here.

Published 22 Nov 2020, 03:13 IST
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