Arts & Culture

Fight club: Beaufort native turns mixed martial arts skills into an acting, stunt career in Hollywood

Question. What's your connection to Beaufort?

Answer. Born and raised in Beaufort. I went to (Beaufort Christian School). My parents divorced, and I moved to Mississippi. I played football, played sports. After I went to high school I wanted to become a police officer. I got a scholarship to Arizona State (University). But school wasn't for me. I became a professional fighter and got into mixed martial arts. I won my first match as a pro. It took off after that. I ended up being 14-0 before I lost. I lost another fight after that and it was like, "What are you going to do?"

Q. What got you interested in acting?

A. I grew up every weekend going to the movie theater in Beaufort. We'd go to Taco Bell first and then straight to the theaters. We'd go see movies kids my age weren't really seeing -- "Braveheart," "Legends of the Fall." Lots of action films, warrior films.

When I decided I wasn't going to fight anymore, I had an opportunity to be in a movie called "Warrior." I met a stunt actor. They were looking for guys who looked like me.

Q. Was it difficult to go from real fighting to staged fighting?

A. I had to change my whole mind-set. I came from a sport where you have to submit or knock out. You have to make contact. Making contact now is a whole different thing. Now I have to punch past the face, cross camera, with camera. ... You can't get anywhere near the actor. It's different. I still have to express myself as if I were in a fight. But I'm not fighting.

Q. So it can be harder to not hit someone than actually hitting someone?

A. Yeah, it can be a lot harder sometimes.

Q. What was your parents' reaction when you told them you were going to be a fighter?

A. I told my mom and she said, "No." I invited her to my first fight. I don't think she watched. But it was only 15 seconds. My father was very upset. He was a very "my way or the highway" type of guy. He was also a boxer and into martial arts. It was hard for him to say no. He taught me some of this stuff when I was a kid.

After I won the first one, he said, "Not all of them are going to be like that."

But I was a cocky 18-year-old. I thought I was untouchable after 14 wins. But then things got hard. I still fight, but I'm more involved in stunts and acting these days. My parents are very supportive.

Q. What about mixed martial arts appealed to you?

A. It was a job opportunity. I was always on base with my dad. I'd always watch the recruits wrestle and do all these crazy combatives. When someone told me about mixed martial arts I didn't know much about it.

When college didn't work out, I just went for it.


Hans Marrero