Gavin O'Connor has had a very interesting career, but in the sort of slow-motion that only Hollywood seems able to manage.
"Tumbleweeds" was his breakthrough moment, critically speaking, and I liked that film a lot. It featured a great performance by Janet McTeer, and it was a controlled, intimate movie. His sports movie "Miracle" was a conventional Hollywood treatment of a great true-life story, and it worked well enough. His last film, "Pride and Glory," was a strong movie with Colin Ferrell and Edward Norton starring in it, but it felt slight, and it was treated poorly in its release. Three movies since 1999, and each one seemed like it took quite a bit of effort to get it going in the first place.
But of all of his films, "Warrior" appears to have been the hardest one to get off the ground, which sort of surprises me. MMA is so huge right now, so high profile, and there's so much money behind it that it would seem to me that making a film set in that world would be very appealing to studios. Instead, O'Connor was turned down by studio after studio, and it was an act of faith for Lionsgate to sign on and make the film, particularly with two leads who were essentially unknown.