Meet The Artist Putting Marvel Heroes in the UFC

It’s a classic superhero vs. superhero showdown from the venerated House of Ideas. The X-Men’s Wolverine stands locked in combat with Daredevil, the man without fear. Whether by Skrull shapeshifting, mind control, or plain old blackmail, two men of justice stand as enemies this day.

Wolverine strikes out with a straight right, claws sheathed so as not to kill his foe. Daredevil dodges the straight, and counters with a combination before disengaging. The mutant takes his blind enemy down and lands some strikes, but the lawyer quickly recovers to his feet. The two exchange some shots and Daredevil goes in for a right hook. But just as he commits, Wolverine launches into the air to land a flying knee right in the kisser!

The Guardian Devil falls, and Wolverine prepares to land the final blow.

But then the ref, billionaire philanthropist and super genius Tony Stark, steps in to end the match. Wolverine by KO to capture the middleweight belt!!!!!!!

Confused? Let me explain.

Beginning in April of 2020, Instagram has been home to a unique art project born of passion, super heroes, and quarantine induced madness. Spanish comic book artist and MMA fanatic Rodrigo Lorenzo López has been pitting famous Marvel heroes against one another inside the octagon for exciting “what-if” scenarios. Since its inception, we’ve seen the likes of Spider-Man, Deadpool, Wolverine and Black Widow all trade in their masks, costumes and weapons for 4 oz. gloves, tattoos and branded fight gear.

“I’m really grateful for all the positive feedback I’ve gotten,” López said. Born near Salamanca, Spain, López has long held a fascination with both martial arts and comic books. But despite his childhood talent for art, it wasn’t till adulthood that Lopez decided to pursue illustration professionally.

Rodrigo Lorenzo López: Sorce, Instagram

“The first comics I read [as a kid] were Spanish comics like Mortadelo y Filemón (Mort and Phil) but the first comic books I read that really stood with me were Warlands by Image Comics and BattleChasers by Joe Madureira,” López said. A finance officer in Salamanca at the time, it was reading those series that pushed him to become a full time comic book illustrator. Over the next seven years, López would go on to work with BOOM! Studios on a number of titles, and amass over 70,000 followers on Instagram.

“I started working with [BOOM! Studios] around five years ago. It was just a few pages at first, but after I drew the Undertaker graphic novel I got a lot more work,” he said.

Alongside his professional work, Rodrigo has found time to grow increasingly enamored with the world of MMA. Aside from his opinions on Jones/Gustafsson I (#AlexWasRobbed) he’s nothing if not a true fan. “I’ve always been a fan of martial arts, when I was a kid I was obsessed with Street Fighter and Dragon Ball. I practiced karate for many years,” he said. “Before I started my career, I found MMA videos on YouTube of Mirco crocop and Anderson Silva highlights. Then I found matches with Fedor Emilionenko, and fell in love with MMA.”

He was sporadic with UFC fandom after his Pride phase, but hasn’t missed a UFC card in the past four years.

So how did these two passions collide in such an incredible way? What do we have to thank for the chance to see Spider-Man do an Anderson Silva front kick?

Enter: COVID-19

With a sudden influx of mandatory time at home, Rodrigo decided to mix his two interests together.

“I wanted to try to do something to make my work known,” he said. “I knew that if I made something with a story for people to engage with, my stuff would grow. In that moment I thought ‘I love Marvel Comics, I love MMA,’ Then I thought some Marvel characters reminded me of some MMA fighters.”

Rodrigo began this quest with a certain type of hero in mind. “I started with the Punisher, I love him,” he said. “I started with the idea of drawing those guys who are known for their physical skills, so guys like Punisher, Daredevil, Electra would fit perfect here.” While that has expanded to more divine and alien characters like Thor and Drax, the emphasis on real combat without superpowers remains paramount.

And the rest was history. Beginning with a middleweight division tournament featuring Punisher, Black Panther, Deadpool, and inaugural champion Daredevil taking the belt in the end, The UFC/Marvel crossover was born. Since then we’ve seen belts change hands, a new Heavyweight division flanked by Kingpin and Thor, women’s divisions featuring Black Widow and X-23, and loads more nerdgasmic action.

Point of reference; my quarantine consisted of vodka, cheesecake, and forgetting how to smile. 

Point, Mr. López.

Far more than simple fight scenes, López has given this world a large amount of depth from both comic and MMA realms. Fighters engage in trash talk inspired by famous MMA potty mouths, both in press conferences and through in-universe social media accounts.

Pictured: Thor and Beast react to their recent title bout.

The detail extends to non-fighters as well. Familiar faces like announcer Bruce Buffer have been replaced by Inhuman King and man with the most powerful voice in comics, Black Bolt. (Or Brucagar Buffigon in my head cannon.)

The intrepid Tony Stark we already established as the ref. But in a nod to his armored roots, he dons familiar protective gear when officiating those deadly heavyweight bouts.

And this cosmic fight org is helmed by the Collector, a maniacal space deity who boils the universe down to things he can own and strips people of their freedom.

Not sure who he’s supposed to be.

And what kind of faithful homage would this be without the “Just Bleed” guy??

The process for crafting these fights can take a ton of research. Nailing key action frames or dialogue requires deep analysis of both comic and MMA highlights. Luckily, we have the right man for the job.

“I use a lot of references to know how things look or to make moves look better. That definitely applies to all the ground game,” he said. “I really try my best!”

When tackling a heavy BJJ or wrestling sequence, López will often look for references outside of MMA.

“For the Bishop submission, I found a picture of a Jiu-Jitsu fight and I changed the angle a little. Then I used myself as a reference for Beast!” So that explains why the blue fella’s so handsome.

And despite all the powerful mythic beings in the Marvel Universe, the only omnipotent force these athletes need to fear is USADA. True to life, not even Captain America himself can escape their dreaded urine test.

If it wasn’t evident already, this project is for the fans.

While this project has had fellow fanatics swooning, the UFC itself has taken notice of López’s work. Several fighters, such as uber-champ and noted mega-nerd Israel Adesanya have complimented his UFC 259 fan art, and the UFC even brought him on to design art for Conor McGregor’s recent merch line.

Almost a year old now, this burgeoning world shows no signs of slowing down. And now, López has opened up the matches for the fans to vote on the outcome.

“For the latest ones I wanted the fans to decide,” he said. “It was for two reasons. First, I wanted to get more people involved in the world. The second reason was, I didn’t want people getting mad at me if their favorite hero lost!”

This project has fully bridged the gap between MMA and comic book nerds, and given us all something new to obsess over during a difficult time. We worry about what meteor the universe will hit us with next, and how our leaders will somehow make it worse. Seeing this labor of love grow and grow, with more and more people starting to get hooked on the story, really warms my nerdy heart.

So the warmest of thank-you’s to Mr. López for all that he does. Feel free to check out his dope art and vote on the Marvel/UFC storyline over on his Instagram page.

And if any of you lovely readers vote against Spider-Man, I’ll never forgive you.


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