Sean Patrick Flanery on Born a Champion, Jiu Jitsu, UFC 257 and the Super Bowl LV

Jordan Sims from The Sports Fan Journal speaks to Sean Patrick Flanery on his new film Born a Champion. 

“Faith, family, fatherhood, love and legacy.” 

These are the five things that Hollywood actor Sean Patrick Flanery said were the most important things in his life, something that came to him as he lay in bed one 2007 night.

You probably know him from the cult classic The Boondock Saints, or Dexter, or Saw - but his new movie Born a Champion has allowed him to showcase one of his truest passions - Jiu Jitsu wrestling.

The film centres around a pro Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fighter who’s put out of the game by a rival, before making a comeback after it’s later proved the rival cheated. A true comeback movie about the drive for greatness, and also represents his screenwriting debut.

But really, at the heart of it and underneath the wrestling, it’s about family and love. 

We had a chance to speak to Flanery about his new movie, Jiu Jitsu, and of course his picks for McGregor v Poirier at UFC 257.

We also snuck some Super Bowl chat in there - just for you. 

“I started martial arts when I was 9 years old”

It’s obvious immediately that Sean is a man of many talents. He started honing those talents from an early age.

“Coming up through the ranks, I started martial arts when I was 9 years old, so I went through a bunch (of different martial arts) but right now I’d say the vast majority is Jiu Jitsu. But we also do Judo, we do Wrestling and we do Muay Thai.”

When the man isn’t spending time with his family, he’s staring in massive movies and TV shows. When he’s not lighting up our screens, he’s Jiu Jitsu wrestling. When he’s not on the Jiu Jitsu mat…

You get the picture. Sean is a busy guy.

And yet he’s still easy going, level headed and equally passionate about all these aspects of his life - and he wants to use this passion to create a legacy for his family.

“It’s something I wanted to leave behind for my kids - and one of things that I wanted to leave behind was this martial art that has kind of overwhelmed my life over the last 20-somethng years. I wrote Born a Champion about those five things that are most important in my life.”

“It’s a story that obviously involves Jiu Jitsu, but it’s wrapped up in the family aspect - at its core it’s a love story about family and legacy.”

And it’s not just his new movie Flanery mentioned either. He’s in literal quarantine in Toronto right now, but hasn’t let that stop his creative juices. He let slip that he’s actually working on something in lockdown, something Amazon Prime Video subs will be intrigued by…

“I can give you a little clue - I’m doing a TV show that’s on Amazon Prime, and I happen to be a superhero.

Me: “WOW! (with the genuine excitement of a kid on christmas).

“I can’t give you any names, but you might be able to figure it out. So I have three days left in quarantine, then I can escape this vacuum and we can start filming, but I had to come out three days prior to get this quarantine situation.”

Superheroes? Amazon Prime? What could it all mean…

“All the protocols are in place and everyone is doing it the right way. I got three days left - I can tell you every square millimetre of this apartment, but I am ready to breathe some fresh air.”

ME: “No Boondock Saints 3 in the works then?”

“You know what: don’t hold your breath.”

Never stop believing guys -  a global pandemic can’t stop the relentless tide of entertainment.

“I don’t give a shit - I would tell you the truth if I didn’t like a fighter”

With such an expert in martial arts at our disposal, it would have been foolish not to ask for his opinion on the upcoming rematch between Connor McGregor and Dustin Poirier at UFC 257. 

The two square up to each other on fight island this weekend, and here’s what Sean had to say about his predictions.

“Obviously, with a name like Flanery, there’s a part of the world where I come from - my lineage - but I happen to have been born in Lake Charles, Louisiana, where Poirier was born.”

“I’m not just saying this, because quite honestly I don’t give a shit - I’d tell you the truth if I didn’t like a fighter - I like both of these guys, I really do. Hopefully I’ll get to train with them one day.”

It’s an unbelievable matchup that’s for sure - McGregor looking to do the double after his TKO’d Poirier in the first round back in 2014. With a record like 26-6, you’d be daft to think Poirier was a pushover, but this is a clash of the titans.

“My armchair prediction would be - Conor wins 9/10 of these matchups. Stylistically I don’t think it’s a great matchup for Poirier. I think their ground game will probably negate one another, but I think Conor has a significant striking advantage and that will be too tall a climb to overcome.”

It’s interesting hearing an expert martial artist talk about UFC fights - to the layman, it looks like two talented fighters going at one another, but there’s so much that goes into everything. 9 out of 10 wins is a hell of a lot, but who are we to question Sean Patrick Flanery’s predictions?

He lives and breathes martial arts. He continues his points.

“What I will say about McGregor - one of his strongest assets, is that he is unflappable in the cage. When you walk out on any stage - I can tell you, being in the entertainment industry - one of the biggest fears known to man is public speaking. And that’s not just literal public speaking, it’s performing in front of a large audience.

“And when you walk out they’re all going crazy - that can crush you. There’s an adrenaline dump and an emotional spike. That dude, although he is an incredible fighter, very well rounded, I think his biggest asset is that he is unflappable.”

McGregor is well known for his confident attitude - no matter the opponent - and anyone that knows anything about the UFC knows that confidence can literally win a fight. Not that McGregor is ever really up against it, but his win against Jose Aldo for the Featherweight Belt illustrates exactly what we’re talking about.

“He treats that octagon like it’s his backyard mat. It means nothing to him. He walks in and it’s just *pound pound pound*. I’ve never seen anyone that comfortable in something that in any normal situation would send you paralytic. That dude is stoic.”

It goes without saying Flanery has a lot of love - particularly for McGregor - but either way, if you’re betting on either of these guys to win, you’re in with a shout.

“Growing up in Texas, Football is a religion”

And of course, it would have been silly of us not to pry some more sporting information out of Flanery before we finished. The Super Bowl is the biggest sporting event in the US bar none, we don’t need to tell you that, so we asked Sean who he’d like to see lift the trophy.

“Look, it’s only a wildcard spot, but I would love to see Tom Brady take Tampa and win a Super Bowl Championship”

I mean, sure he’s right, it’s a wildcard, but how can you bet against Tom Brady? The man embodies everything about a perfect quarterback.

“They got Green Bay this weekend, that’s a tough hill to climb. Just like McGregor, I think Green Bay win 9/10. But Tom Brady is the guy that finds that 1/10, you just can’t bet against him. 

“Having said that, a large number of my students - shoutout to Chris and Doug - are from Buffalo, so I’m divided between Buffalo and Tampa Bay. Both of those guys are longshots - although buffalo do look pretty good. Those are the two places where my heart is - because of Chris and Doug - I’m gunna put something behind Buffalo, and Tom Brady - come on man?

“There are so many Tom Brady haters out there - but after what he’s done, I don’t know how you haven’t given your head a shake and be like: “I gotta recognise that this dude is the GOAT.”

“I love seeing brilliance in any form and that dude just breaks my mind.”

“Pieces of advice? Start.”

Inspired by Sean’s vigor, and nearing the end of our time speaking, I asked him if he had any quick pieces of advice for people looking to start Jiu Jitsu - and he treated us to some more pearls of wisdom.

“It’s a difficult martial art to get into. You know? It’s intimidating, it’s claustrophobic, the proximity is almost overwhelming - but just start.

“It’s there to help you get in shape so just dive in, you need no preparation, but it’s like someone’s ill and they get told ‘go to a doctor’ and what they really mean is ‘go to a GOOD doctor’. I can’t endorse every single Jiu JItsu instructor out there.

“I can tell you that if you find a GOOD instructor, it will change your life. Run don’t walk.”

ME: Thanks a lot, I’m actually thinking about starting myself.

“Oh, really? Dude, shoot me a message if you have an academies near you, I’ll give you my recommendation. I’ll do a bit of research and let you know.”

Born a Champion is out Jan 22 2021.


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