I write to you today from sunny, beautiful Australia. I’m in the Gold Coast (Surfers Paradise) for the finale for The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes on Saturday. I flew down here straight from Seattle following UFC on FOX 5 and went straight to work, so I haven’t had much time to work on a proper blog post.
I’ll spare you a long-winded writeup and just get to the good stuff. UFC on FOX 5 featured a great night of fights, which capped a fantastic week that I was able to share with my wife in Seattle. I covered the fights alongside longtime Getty staff photographer Ezra Shaw. Here’s my favorite shot from the night.
Sunday morning, I left Seattle destined for Gold Coast, Australia. My itinerary saw me layover in San Francisco for about 5 hours, followed by a 12-hour flight to Auckland, New Zealand and another 3 hour layover there. I finally arrived in Gold Coast mid-morning Tuesday. Upon arriving at the hotel in Surfers Paradise, I was presented with some of the best working conditions a man could ask for.
While I haven’t had much time to venture out and see any sights, just the fact that I can wake up and open my blinds every morning to this view makes the workday seem so much easier.
On Wednesday, I spent the day shooting portraits of various fighters on the card. Nothing too exciting, though it was nice to see all the guys again who I worked with at the beginning of filming for TUF: The Smashes. Everyone is in great shape and excited to put on a great fight.
Thursday saw us drive out to Boonchu Muay Thai for the open workouts. The gym is owned by legendary Aussie fighter John Wayne Parr. It was a pleasant surprise when the man himself greeted us upon arrival and welcomed us into his gym. It’s a very small gym in a warehouse complex, but it worked out great. 8 fighters from the card worked out in some form or another. Some only shadow boxing, others a little more intense. Here is a slideshow of shots from the workouts.
And today saw the fighters all hit the scale for the official weigh in ahead of tomorrow’s fights. All fighters made weigh on their first try and there were no big surprises. TUF Smashes Coaches Ross Pearson and George Sotiropoulos capped off the weigh in with a heated staredown. Below is the slideshow of images from the weigh in.
Hello from Sydney, Australia. After an incredible week in Japan, I’ve finally made it down to the “land down under” to cover UFC on FX: Kampmann vs Alves for UFC and Getty Images. I had intended every intention of writing this blog post along my journey, but that just did not happen. I feel like so much has happened in the last 36 hours, I’m still trying to digest it all. So, I’ll get right into it.
UFC returned to Japan for the first time in 12 years with UFC 144 as Frankie Edgar put his UFC Lightweight Championship on the line in the main event against number-one contender Benson Henderson. But before the main event, there were eleven other great fights to keep the crowd entertained.
The bus to Saitama departed the hotel at 6:00 am on fight day. Due to the time difference, the show had to take place in the morning in Japan to air during the normal timeslot in North America. After about 45 minutes on the bus, we arrived at the Saitama Super Arena. And let me just say, they hit the nail on the head with the name of this place as it truly is an awesome arena. The configuration for UFC 144 must have allowed for somewhere around 22,000 fans in attendance. Doors opened at 9:00 am and the venue started filling up quickly.
The first bout went off right around 9:30 am with Issei Tamura knocking out Tiequan Zhang in brutal fashion to get the show off to a fantastic start. Many people probably thought as I did that we had just witnessed the Knockout of the Night. Well, as fate would have it, we were wrong. But that’s a good thing for the UFC, fans, and the fighters.
Slowly but surely, the fights went down one by one. The arena was mostly full before the live pay-per-view broadcast began at noon. For the most part, the crowd wasn’t much different than some other crowds we’ve seen around the world. I expected it to be much more quiet, but there really weren’t too many quiet moments. There were even rounds of boo’s during slow moments of a couple fights.
Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto had a large contingent of supporters in attendance for his bout against England’s Vaughn Lee. “Kid” looked to be on his way to victory, blasting Lee with punches in the standup exchanges. But, the Brit found a way to get it to the ground, and rather quickly started working submissions. He eventually secured an arm bar, forcing Yamamoto to tap in the first round. The victory gave Lee the Submission of the Night award, being the lone submission of the event.
Anthony “Showtime” Pettis kicked off the live pay-per-view telecast with a thrilling first round knockout of Joe Lauzon. Pettis landed a perfectly timed kick to the jaw of Lauzon, putting him down in an instant. After following up with two flush punches on the ground, the referee stopped the fight and the Knockout of the Night crown was sealed.
Following that up was going to be a tough task, but the rest of the fights did not disappoint. Mark Hunt TKO’d Cheick Kongo in the first round; Tim Boetsch came back from the brink of defeat to TKO Yushin Okami with a brutal series of uppercuts in the third round; Jake Shields scored an impressive unanimous decision victory over Yoshihiro Akiyama; and in the co-main event, Ryan Bader easily out-pointed Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. The Japanese fans were treated to a classic Rampage slam during the bout, but that was really the only bright spot for Jackson throughout the three rounds.
In the main event, Benson Henderson showed up with a mission to take home the title and was not letting anyone get in his way. After dropping the first round on all three judges cards, Henderson turned it around in the second, landing a solid up-kick to the face of Edgar which stunned the champ. After that, Henderson took over and peppered the champ with kicks, knees, and punches throughout the five rounds. At the end of it all, Henderson captured the title by a unanimous judges’ decision. Both Henderson and Edgar were rightfully awarded the Fight of the Night honor.
The fights in Saitama ended around 4:00 pm and I was fortunate to get on one of the first transports back to the hotel. Having transmitted the bulk of the images throughout the fights, I only had about 30-40 left to edit and caption on the long bus ride back to the hotel. It worked out great and I was able to get everything ready so all I had to do was plug in and hit “send” when I got to my room. I wandered across the street to 7-11 to use up some of my Yen and grab lunch while the upload finished. Then, it was back to get started packing for the long journey the next morning.
I was scheduled to leave the hotel at 7:00 am the next morning for a long day of travel down to Sydney. Due to some heavy sleepers, we didn’t end up leaving the hotel until nearly 7:30. Anyone who has ever traveled with me knows that is one of my biggest pet peeves. I hate being late, especially for an international flight where there are heavier restrictions on check-in times and longer lines to wait in at the check-in desk and security. As it turned out though, we still had plenty of time. It was about an hour en route to the airport. I was able to go through the business class check-in line at the Singapore Airlines counter, thanks to my United 1K status, so check-in was a breeze. The very helpful agent also waived my baggage fees, saving me close to $1,000. Ten minutes later, I was through security and hanging out in the United lounge.
The first leg of my journey saw me fly from Tokyo’s Narita Airport seven hours down to Singapore’s Changi Airport. I had been looking forward to this trip ever since I watched Anthony Bourdain’s The Layover where he visited Singapore. The airport features a free movie theater, more shopping than you’ll find at most American malls, tons of great food, a butterfly garden, and a rooftop pool. I didn’t have a chance to make it to the pool, nor did I have the time to catch a movie. But, I did pick up some souvenirs at the Hard Rock Cafe, the 34th different one that I’ve visited, and I spent a few minutes watching the butterflies.
From Singapore, it was an additional eight hours en route to Sydney. And, for the first time in my life, I would be flying on an Airbus A380 super jumbo jet. Of course, as soon as I found this out, I requested an upper deck seat. Though, in hindsight it didn’t make any difference and probably only delayed me more from deplaning quickly upon arriving in Sydney. Singapore Air, though, is one of the nicer airlines I have had the pleasure of flying. It was a very pleasant trip, albeit very long and draining. Next time, I will definitely make more of an effort to upgrade to business class.
I knew I was in for a long day once I arrived in Sydney, but had hoped to make the best of it. The flight landed at about 7:30 am, just three hours before the open workouts were slated to start. By the time I made it through customs and boarded the bus to the hotel with the rest of the group, we had less than an hour until the workouts. So, I felt very stressed from the start. To add to the stress, there were no hotel rooms available, so I was unable to freshen up at all before going to shoot the open workouts. I apologize for anyone that was near me at the workouts if I had an odd odor. Once I started shooting the workouts, things all sort of just worked themselves out and the stress slowly alleviated. But, that’s another blog post perhaps for tomorrow.
For now, here’s a gallery of images I shot during UFC 144 in Saitama, Japan. As always, check out the full take at UFC.com and Getty Images.
Another beautiful afternoon in Tokyo, Japan today saw us travel across town to the Ritz-Carlton Hotel for the UFC 144: Edgar v Henderson final pre-fight presser. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, I’m sure you know that press conferences in general aren’t the most captivating events to cover. Today’s presser in particular was rather long, in part because the same questions were asked 3-4 times each by various different media. The turnout today was rather impressive, with the usual group of North American media and a whole slew of Japanese media members. The top three fights were featured on the dais, and the entire cast of Japanese fights were in attendance for one-on-one interview opportunities.
Below is a selection of images from the day. Check out the full take on UFC.com and Getty Images.
Greetings from Tokyo, Japan. I arrived here on Tuesday afternoon to cover all the events during the week for UFC 144: Edgar v Henderson, which takes place Sunday afternoon at the Saitama Super Arena. This marks the UFC’s first visit to the Land of the Rising Sun since December 2000, and promises to be a huge event. Several notable Japanese fighters are featured on the card, including Yoshihiro Akiyama, Yushin Okami, Takanori Gomi, and Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto. In the main event, UFC Lightweight Champion Frankiei Edgar continues his quest to be the most traveled UFC Champion as he defends his title against former WEC Champion Benson Henderson.
Yesterday, I covered the open workouts at Gold’s Gym in the Harajuku district. The area the gym set aside for the workout was quite small, a room that measured maybe 30×30 feet. The media turnout was good, including a strong contingent of North American press, as well as the expected Japanese websites, magazines, papers, and TV networks. The room proved to be far too small for the crowd that gathered, but everyone was polite and friendly, so it all worked out good. The mat area only measured about 15×15, so the fighters really didn’t have a lot of room to workout. Most guys just did short shadowboxing routines and hit pads for just a few minutes.
Below is a gallery of the images I captured throughout the day. Lighting was a single 580exII speedlite on a 7′ stand. Most shots were captured using high speed sync at 1/1000, f4. As always, I encourage you to check out the full take at UFC.com and Getty Images.
I had the honor and pleasure to shoot the first ever UFC event on network TV this past weekend in Anaheim when UFC on FOX: Velasquez vs. Dos Santos kicked off from the Honda Center. I was shooting second camera for UFC and Getty Images down in the photo pit, and it was a great night of fights and a very fun experience. Spent the entire night shooting next to my good friend Ed Mulholland from ESPN. It’s always nice to shoot events with colleagues and friends. My friend Donald Miralle was up on the box for us and he got some great shots, as well.
I mostly shot with my trusty 70-200 and switched off to the 8-15 fish-eye when it called for it. Have I mentioned yet that I love that lens? I’ll write a review in the next couple of weeks for anyone that’s interested. Ed and I also ran up top for the Semerzier/Peralta fight and shot from the Press Box at the top of the arena. I had a 400mm which I’m really growing to love. If only it didn’t cost as much as a car. That turned out to probably be the best fight to shoot from up top. I’ll give all the credit to Ed for making the choice on that one, I just followed his lead. We also rigged an overhead remote with a 16-35 which I ran all night from a foot pedal.
I think everyone expected going into the fights that the Guida/Henderson matchup could be the fight of the night, and they did not disappoint. What a great performance by both fighters. It’s a shame one of them had to lose. Benson totally deserved that win, and it’s nice to see how his career has turned around since his loss to Pettis in the final WEC event last December. I really like his chances against Frankie Edgar.
Before the main event, I said I thought Velasquez would take it. I really believed he would just take the fight to the ground and grind out a TKO or decision victory. But, I did say to Ed before the fight started, if Junior lands a clean shot, I don’t know how anyone could remain standing. I honestly don’t know how Roy Nelson was able to weather Junior’s shots. If you’ve ever seen Junior hitting mitts, you’ll know what I mean. To say he has some pop on his punch is such an understatement. And he proved me right when he landed what didn’t even look to be a solid shot, but in just the right spot, to drop Velasquez and then pounced and finished him on the ground afterwards. I didn’t get a clean shot of the punch that dropped him from my hand-held camera, but I did capture the whole sequence and Junior’s celebration on the overhead remote, as well as with the fish-eye. Junior’s celebration was about the best you could hope for when planning a remote. He dropped to his knees in the center of the cage with his arms stretched out wide and leaned back looking straight up at the camera.
I’d like to extend a special thanks to Rebecca How for doing a spectacular job with the edit. And again, huge thanks and appreciation for my friends Ed Mulholland and Donald Miralle. Always fun working with/for you guys. And lastly, for Mike Roach and Kari Hubert. They help me out at practically every fight, mostly shooting backstage and behind-the-scenes stuff. They both delivered again with some really awesome, intimate shots.
Here’s a teaser of my take from the night. Check out Getty Images for the full take from all our photographers.
After the UFC 141 presser on Friday, the fighters for the UFC on FOX card lined up to weigh in for their bouts on Saturday. All fighters made weight. Benson Henderson, as is typical in his last few fights, had to make use of the towel. We were sitting directly behind Clay Guida’s family who had their usual assortment of flags, banners, and signs. I was hoping for a bit more exciting shot when Clay stepped on the scale, but the family was rather subdued. The audience was electric for the last two fights – Guida vs. Henderson and Velasquez vs. Dos Santos. Dos Santos was heavily boo’d while Velasquez was cheered loudly by the partisan crowd. Great crowd for what I would consider a smaller than normal venue for a weigh-in event. Here are the selects.
Special thanks to my wife Jody for assisting me with this shoot and keeping the fish-eye at the ready when I needed it.
The fighters competing in Saturday’s main and co-main events held open workouts today for media and fans at the UFC Gym in Rosemead, California. I was there to cover for UFC and Getty Images. I used my same trusty lighting setup that has worked for the last few open workouts I’ve covered – a single Canon 580ex II strapped to the top of the Octagon and controlled by a PocketWizard remote. For this week, I’ve got a few of the newest PocketWizard FlexTTL units to play with, which among other features, allow you to use High Speed Sync and HyperSync. Quick first impressions… I love them. Configuration is a bit of a pain, as you have to do it from a computer. But, I love that they are much more low profile and less cumbersome than the Plus II and MultiMax units. Most of these shots were done with the shutter at around 1/800 or 1/1000 at f2.8. I had the flash set to manual mode at 1/2 power, and also used an external power pack to help with the recycle time. By the end of the shoot, the batteries were dying and I was only getting a flash about one in every five or six shots. Still came away with tons of cool stuff, I think. Have a look.