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Sports Emmy Nominee Gotham Chopra on ‘Why We Fight.’

Why We Fight received a nomination for Outstanding Serialized Sports Documentary, the awards will be handed out on Tuesday.

Ahead of the nominations, I caught up with both Gotham Chopra and Chris Uettwiller to learn more about their passion for sports and how Why We Fight evolved.


What’s the genesis of Why We Fight?

Chris Uettwiller and Matt Ogens – two of the other Executive Producers on the project – had previously collaborated on a short film called Kid Yamaka, which Matt had directed. We started talked about the concept of how to take the short film and its star Zach Wohlman and turn it into a series. From there the idea just grew and got bigger and bigger in terms of going global, but at the same time retained a real intimacy because it really was about building it around Zach and his genuine fascination for his sport – fighting. The more we researched it, the more we realized that fighting really is a primordial sport and that it exists petty much in every corner of the planet. That in of itself made for a great show concept.

Fighting is so primordial, how did you choose the areas of fighting to go into and what did you want to explore?

We had a great research team and they really canvased the planet looking for good ideas. We wanted the show to have a real global flavor so just looking in different countries and continents was definitely an organizing principle. But ultimately it’s also really about just finding great characters and stories. That’s really the most important quality we look for – characters that resonate and whose stories have a real arc to them. Fighting by its nature is pretty magnetic. It’s a sport that even if you’re not really into it is hard to take your eyes off of. But we really wanted to go beyond that and answer that genuine question: why do we fight? Fighting is violent and scary and painful, so why do people subject themselves to it?

Zac has a lot of demons as the series shows, talk about his story and what you wanted to show with him?

Zac is a pretty amazing human being. It’s hard for me to even think of him as a host in the traditional sense of a television show. He’s a character and most importantly a genuine fighter who’s actively training and trying to build a life out of professionally boxing. That brings an authenticity to the show that I don’t think we’d ever have if we had just generically “cast” the show. He’s open about his demons – his addictions, recovery, relapse, and struggle – and how at each stage, they’ve been tied to fighting. His willingness to talk about that with people and on the show was really courageous and bold. I think it’s the best aspect of the show actually. Zac’s vulnerability is powerful and what connects him to folks. I know it meant a lot to the people he came into contact along the way making the show — and to the people making the show.

What are some of your favorite sports?

I love all sports, but I’d say my favorite is probably basketball. I grew up in Boston during the heyday of the original Big Three (Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish) and got to see some really epic games. I’ve also been able to collaborate with some of the greats – Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and most recently LeBron James so that reinforces my love of the game.

What’s next for you?

It’s been a pretty crazy hectic year. Aside from Why We Fight, we produced a second season of our other series Religion of Sports, a series with Facebook following Tom Brady called ‘Tom vs Time’ and I have been working with LeBron James on an original series for Showtime, which remains in production. Also, I’ve formed a company with Tom Brady and Michael Strahan to develop more sports-related content and also launch a podcast, newsletter and some original content. We’re having fun and hopefully will create some cool stuff.

Who are some of your sporting heroes?

I love sports and have had the incredible fortune to work with some legendary athletes – Kobe Bryant, David Ortiz, LeBron James, and Tom Brady to name a few. Those are all guys who I’ve been big fans of throughout their careers and then getting to see how devoted they are to their crafts and how hard they practice and prepare is really inspiring. Despite working so close to a lot of these guys and getting to see how the sausage is made, I still love going to games and watching athletes compete.


How did you and Gotham meet?

I met Gotham when we started working on the Showtime documentary Kobe Bryant’s Muse. Gotham directed the film and Dirty Robber was the production company.

What are some of your favorite sports?

I’m a former motorcycle racer and I raced bicycles for a few years so if I get the TV remote to myself, I’ll look for some spring classics or Moto GP.I’m also an avid skier.

What’s next for you?

We have a few Nike projects in production and we have a basketball mini doc series, music documentary and a few other things that will be announced soon.

Who are some of your sporting heroes?

Nicky Hayden, Valentino Rossi, Senna, Sugar Ray Leonard, Michael Strahan, Joe Morris, Lance Armstrong and Fabian Cancellara.