Filmmaker Darren Wilson was surprised when he received an "out-of-the-blue" phone call six years ago from a representative for Ken Shamrock, a famed UFC and WWF veteran, inquiring about whether Wilson might be willing to make a documentary about the fighter's tumultuous life story.
Wilson, who wasn't much of a mixed martial arts or UFC fan, told TheBlaze that Shamrock, now 51, was relatively unknown to him at the time, but after he Googled and realized who he was, he phoned back.
"Ken had seen my first film, 'Finger of God,' and had loved it, and he was curious if I might be willing to tell his story," Wilson said. "I had no intention of doing that at all because of my already busy schedule, but I prayed before the phone call that God would make it clear if this was what I was supposed to do."
To his surprise, Wilson said that it took just 15 minutes on the phone with Shamrock before his mind was changed entirely.
"My spirit was on fire and I knew I had to make this movie," he said. "So I flew out to Reno to meet Ken and his wife and the rest is history."
Despite being an interesting -- some might even say, uncommon -- choice to make the film, Wilson quickly jumped in, adapted, and found himself immersed in the world of MMA.
"I was entering a world completely foreign to me," he said. "I had no grid for any of it, so I was very much a naive innocent coming into this very manly, very tight knit community of fighters."
Wilson continued, "Add to that the fact that Ken is a very unique, multi-layered personality and it made for a film that demanded a different approach than anything else I had done."
Another added element of the documentary centers on Shamrock's Christian faith, which Wilson described as fairly undeveloped when he first encountered him. But four years into the process the filmmaker said that he was astonished by how much spiritual growth Shamrock had experienced.
"There’s a maturity to his faith now that wasn’t there in the early days of filming with him," Wilson said. "Obviously filming at the fights was a trip, but the most rewarding thing has been watching Ken’s growth both as a man and as a child of God."
The filmmaker went on to describe him as a man who now "understands the power of forgiveness and grace.
Wilson and Shamrock set out to collaborate on a documentary that would push the boundaries of what Christian films are allowed to do, exploring the fighter's dark past and struggles.
"His past is a hard one, filled with lots of mistakes, hard partying, drugs, women, violence, the works. But the man I filmed was a guy deep in the throes of conflict," Wilson said. "He knew the end was near, but he didn’t want it to come, but he knew it had to, and he knew God was calling him to something deeper, and that literally terrified him."
Wilson is hoping that the film will show audiences a different side of Shamrock, allowing them to learn where he came from and why he makes the decisions he does.
"The story we tell really uses what were thought to be his final fights as a backdrop to the bigger story — one where Ken’s entire identity is changing even as his professional career is seemingly crashing down around him," Wilson said. "He’s coming into an understanding that his identity isn’t as a fighter any more, it’s as a child of God."
One of the more nagging questions surrounding "The Greatest Fight" is why it took six years for the film to come to fruition -- a question that Wilson was more than willing to answer.
The beginning of the filming process captured what were thought to be Shamrock's final three fights, which ended up painting a pretty depressing picture for the supposed ending of the fighter's career.
"It didn’t seem like a very glorious exit from the sport he helped put on the map," Wilson admitted. "Once I had cut the film together, we just never felt that the time was right to release it — something just felt off."
As it turns out, the story wasn't quite over.
Shamrock has gone on to keep fighting four years later, finding himself in an entirely different place and offering Wilson the chance to present viewers with a more positive ending (in fact, he'll be facing-off against Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson tonight at 9 p.m. ET on Spike TV).
"When you’re watching a man failing at the very thing he used to be the best in the world at, but at the same time you’re watching his spirit come alive for something else, it’s like a beautiful train wreck," Wilson said of the early film-making process. "That’s why I’m so happy we were able to catch him where he’s at now, because the tracks have been cleaned up and there’s a new train chugging along now, and it’s a beautiful thing."
Find out more and watch "The Greatest Fight" here.