TORONTO — Steven J. Wong got more than he bargained for when he signed up to direct a mixed martial arts documentary.
The result of more than four years work and 300-plus hours of filming, The Striking Truth tells the different paths travelled by friends and fellow Montreal fighters Georges St-Pierre and David (The Crow) Loiseau.
The film was Loiseau’s idea.
He believed their stories were worth telling. Their story is indeed as compelling as Loiseau envisioned, as The Striking Truth shows. But perhaps not the way he intended.
Wong, a former commercial and infomercial film-maker who is a third-degree black belt in taekwondo himself, wasn’t sure originally where the project would take them.
“We had visions of where it was going to go, we had some best-case scenarios,” he said. “In this case, the juxtaposition between the two fighters was so incredible. Sometimes you get a very dramatic, powerful ending. It’s not necessarily the storybook ending that you want all the time.”
When he started filming in 2006, Loiseau and St-Pierre were both UFC fighters on the rise.
Slightly older and with a longer record in the sport, Loiseau was seen as an MMA trailblazer from Quebec. A middleweight known for his entertaining flashy style, he was about to fight for the UFC title.
St-Pierre, a little younger and smaller at welterweight, was also on the rise.
Loiseau lost his title shot in March 2006, beaten by champion Rich Franklin in a bruising five-round battle. The Crow has never been the same since.
In contrast, St-Pierre went on to win the 170-pound title in November 2006. He lost the championship less than five months later but regained it in April 2008 and has ruled his weight class since.
Today, the 29-year-old St-Pierre is seen as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters on the planet — one of Canada’s most famous faces worldwide, with big-name sponsorships to match.
The film ends for Loiseau at UFC 115 last June in Vancouver, where he makes another failed attempt to stick in MMA’s big leagues. Wong shoots Loiseau’s anguished self-analysis during a post-fight visit to an emergency room.
“It was the hardest scene I’ve ever had to film in my professional career, one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my professional life for that matter,” Wong said.
For Loiseau (20-10), the demons hold him back and prevent the real fighter from emerging. He has seen the same sports psychologists that St-Pierre has. And has tried everything from hypnosis to yoga.
After filming wrapped, and much soul-searching, Loiseau eventually elected to keep fighting and won a lesser title in California last Friday.
Wong admits to originally thinking he could finish the movie in two years. But it needed closure.
“Two years ago, a year and half ago, there is no end,” he said. “Sure Georges is still being Georges, beating everyone and David was still trying to get back in the UFC. There was no end.”
Then came Vancouver, where Loiseau was left bloodied and battered.
Win or lose, Loiseau remains fiercely proud of the story. “This movie is not only for MMA people or the casual MMA fan, it’s for everybody, it’s not about fighting, it’s a human story,” he said.