Best Laid Plans

UFC 162 Open WorkoutsAs is often the case with shooting on-location under questionable circumstances, you can only plan so much. Today happened to be one of those cases for me at the UFC 162 Open Workouts. I walked into XS Nightclub at The Encore with the knowledge from my experience of shooting there last July. However, a quick survey of the scene revealed a different setup from last year, resulting in totally different lighting conditions. I always bring along my speedlites whenever shooting a workout because I never know what the light will be like and at least I have the consolation of knowing I can always provide enough light for any situation.

Once I realized how low the ambient light was, I started breaking out my gear and setting up. Shooting in a nightclub can be challenging because those places are designed to cram as many people in as possible and they don’t have a lot of secure locations to mount lights or even put up light stands. I could only find one spot within range of the stage to setup a light stand, so I decided to double up my two FourSquare blocks and concentrate all my light into one source. I put the softbox with six speedlites about eight feet off of the back corner, stage-right from my position. My first plan was to be able to walk around throughout the venue and shoot from multiple locations, giving me a variety of angles for my light source. However, once the workouts started, I quickly realized I would not be able to move at all. In fact, I kind of painted myself into a corner standing on the stage, only having about ten feet of movement left and right. The light source was to my right, about twelve feet above the stage hitting from almost a 45-degree angle. So, it wasn’t bad at all. I had some great ideas for portrait-style shots I wanted to get while in the midst of the workouts. By the end of the shoot, I found myself scrambling just to make any kind of shots.

The real problems began when Anderson Silva prepared to come on stage. He always travels with a large entourage, and today proved to be the biggest yet. He had about thirty people with him, all of whom would be on the small stage while he was working out. So, I was fighting for space the whole time. Being a 13+ year staffer for UFC provides me with a lot of access, but when Anderson Silva is in the building, all that experience and access means absolutely nothing. His trainers and camp will deliberately move in front of you to prevent you from getting shots so their own photographer (with no credential at all) can get the exclusive shots. They will push you around. They will try to have you kicked out completely. I was prepared for all of this as it’s happened several times before, but today was by far the worst situation. Two members of his camp climbed onto the tower where my light stand was mounted and throughout the shoot they used my light stand as an arm rest. So, I tried to keep an eye on that through my periphery at all times. At one point, I was blindly hail-mary shooting over two rows of people who would not let me any closer. Finally, I managed to squeeze myself into a tucked spot on the edge of the mat underneath a documentary camera following his camp. Unfortunately, this meant that I had no chance to get anything of use with 70-200mm lens, which is my lens of choice about 95% of the time. But at that point, I was just in survival mode and wanted to make any photos I could.

When all was said and done, I made it out of the shoot unscathed with a decent take. And all my equipment survived for another shoot. The lesson to be learned here is that you can plan and stress and go crazy trying to make sure everything is perfect, and there will still be a rather large sized monkey wrench thrown in the gears to throw everything out of whack. You just have to go with the flow and try to adapt as best you can. Realize that not every situation will be perfect. But don’t panic and just try to look for other angles and options. And don’t always count on your subject being totally cooperative. It’s nice when they are, but it isn’t always the case.

Here is a look at my take from the day.


UFC 162 Open Workouts – Images by Joshua Hedges

UFC 146: Dos Santos v Mir Gallery

I spent the better part of the day and night Saturday at MGM Grand shooting UFC 146: Dos Santos v Mir for UFC and Getty Images. There was a lot of hype behind this historic card, being the first time in the modern UFC era that a main card had consisted entirely of heavyweights. And when it was all said and done, the card lived up to the hype, and then some.

Despite the emphasis in marketing the heavyweight fights on the card, there were several really good undercard fights, as well. Longtime UFC hopeful Glover Teixeira made his debut, putting away Kyle Kingsbury very quickly in dominating fashion. Paul Sass pulled out yet another triangle choke submission against Jacob Volkmann. Late replacement Jamie Varner finished the previously unbeaten Edson Barboza.

The main card kicked off with the tallest fighter in the UFC, Stefan Struve, jumping guard on two-time KO of the Night winner Lavar Johnson and quickly arm barring him. This earned Struve another Submission of the Night bonus and pushed him another step up the ladder in the heavyweight division. Next up was a battle of two unbeatens, as 8-0 Stipe Miocic battled 11-0 Shane Del Rosario. Del Rosario looked good in the early goings, landing a lot of kicks. The first time Octagon jitters didn’t seem to bother him. As the fight drew on, though, Miocic began to land strikes of his own before getting the fight to the ground where he ended it with some brutal elbows.

In the third heavyweight feature bout, Roy “Big Country” Nelson made quick work of Dave Herman with a brutal overhand right, sending Herman crashing to the canvas and earning Nelson another Knockout of the Night bonus. That bout was followed up by Cain Velasquez quickly TKO’ing Antonio “Big Foot” Silva in one of the bloodiest fights I’ve ever witnessed. Cain split “Big Foot” open early in round one and jumped on him like a lion on a gazelle. Referee Josh Rosenthal finally halted the bout a couple minutes later after “Big Foot” could not see through all the blood.

Finally, the main event saw Heavyweight Champion Junior dos Santos trying to do what previous champion Cain Velasquez was not able to do, successfully defend his title. Dos Santos’ original opponent, Alistair Overeem was removed from the card after a pre-fight drug screening denied him a license for the fight. Frank Mir stepped in on about 6 weeks notice to take the fight, and looked to pose an interesting challenge to the champion. As the fight unfolded though, the champ took control. A barrage at the end of the first round nearly ended the fight, but it would come just a couple minutes later in the second round when Dos Santos floored Mir with a straight right and followed up with some crashing hammer fists on the ground. The champ scored another highlight reel KO, and I nailed the shot!

I had a great time shooting the fights again and catching up with friends and colleagues, including Donald Miralle, Rod Mar, James Law, Esther Lin, and Paul Thatcher. I encourage you to check out their shots from the night, as well.

Below is my selection of shots from the night. As always, check them out on Getty Images and UFC.com.


UFC 146: Dos Santos v Mir – Images by Joshua Hedges

UFC on FX 2: Kampmann v Alves

Greetings again from beautiful Sydney, Australia. I apologize for the tardiness of my post, but what can I say, we’ve been enjoying our stay here now that the sun has finally shined for three days straight. If you follow me on Facebook (and “why not?” if you don’t), then you’ve probably seen my collection of tourist snaps from the last few days. It has truly been amazing. Yesterday we did the Bridge Climb, scaling up to the summit of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and back down. I was slightly terrified starting out, but 5 minutes into the climb, it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I recommend anyone who has the chance to ever do it, please do. You will not be disappointed.

Ok, enough of that. You’re probably here to read about fights and look at bloody pictures. As I said before, the third UFC event in the great nation of Australia took place last Saturday at the Allphones Arena at Sydney Olympic Park in what was then a very rainy Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. The main event featured welterweight contenders Thiago Alves and Martin Kampmann battling to climb the ladder closer to a title shot in one of the more stacked divisions in the UFC. Thiago Alves looked well on his way to winning the fight by unanimous decision when in the third round, he shot in for a takedown and left his neck out for Kampmann to sink in a guillotine choke and force the tapout. Kampmann earned the submission of the night bonus for his come-from-behind performance.

The main card also featured a tournament to crown an inaugural flyweight champion in the newly established 125-pound division. Joseph Benavidez made quick work of world #2 Yasuhiro Urushitani with a TKO just seconds into the second round. But, the real excitement and controversy occurred in the other semifinal between Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson and “Uncle Creepy” Ian McCall. McCall has long been considered the top dog at 125 pounds, but “Mighty Mouse” still seemed to be the favorite going into the fight after coming down in weight after a highly successful run at 135 pounds. All three rounds of the bout were action packed. The first two were close and could have gone either way. The third round saw McCall take control and get the fight to the ground. He closed out the fight with a series of smashing punches from Johnson’s back. When the score cards were read, awarding Johnson a majority decision victory, the crowd let out a raucous boo in unison. And they were right. It was later revealed that the score cards were tallied wrong and the scored should have been a majority draw, and thus there should have been a fourth and deciding round. A furious Dana White made right, awarding both fighters a win bonus and awarding them both the fight of the night bonus. The rematch to decide the second finalist for the flyweight title will take place at a future show, depending on the health of both fighters coming out of this bout. I, for one, won’t at all be upset about seeing these two go at it again.

Below is a gallery of shots from throughout the night. As always, check UFC.com and Getty Images for the full take.


UFC on FX 2: Alves v Kampmann – Images by Joshua Hedges

UFC 144: Edgar vs Henderson gallery

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.


UFC 144: Edgar vs Henderson – Images by Joshua Hedges

UFC Japan Press Conference

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.


UFC 144 Press Conference – Images by Joshua Hedges

UFC Japan Open Workouts

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.


UFC 144 Open Workouts – Images by Joshua Hedges

UFC 143 Diaz vs Condit Gallery

Hey everybody. What a great night of fights last night. As usual, I covered UFC 143 for Getty Images and UFC. The annual Superbowl weekend event was originally set to feature a Welterweight Championship battle between heated rivals Nick Diaz and Champion Georges St-Pierre. However, a training injury sidelined St-Pierre and gave Carlos Condit his big shot at UFC gold. The new contest between Diaz and Condit was established to be for an interim championship belt, since St-Pierre could be out of action for up to a year.

As is sometimes the case, the undercard fights nearly stole the show. In the first bout of the night between debuting fighters Stephen Thompson and Dan Stittgen, the KO of the Night award was handed out when Thompson landed a great three strike combo, finishing with a high kick that put Stittgen out for good. Matt Brown also had a great performance in knocking out Chris Cope. Newcomer Henry Martinez looked great in his debut, but came up just a hair short in a split-decision loss to Matthew Riddle. The Submission of the Night award was won by Dustin Poirier who transitioned beautifully between different submissions on the ground, finally tapping out Max Holloway with a mounted triangle/arm bar.

The new UFC intro aired in-house to get the crowd fired up, and I must say it was quite awesome. Before the fight, I had a chance to grab shots of a lot of celebrities in attendance, including my friend Wilmer Valderama, Vanilla Ice, Benji and Joel Madden, Jaime Pressly, MC Hammer, Roy Jones Jr, and all-time hits leader Pete Rose. MC Hammer was actually there for the first fight of the night, which is impressive if you’ve ever been to a UFC in Vegas. Barely anyone is in the arena for the first 2-3 fights.

Starting off the main card was Ed Herman weathering a good storm from Clifford Starks and eventually putting him away with a rear choke submission. Renan Barao handled Scott Jorgensen with a unanimous decision, running his unbeaten streak to 28 fights. Welterweights Josh Koscheck and Mike Pierce went the distance, as well, with Koscheck winning a split decision. In my opinion, I thought Pierce did enough to win. In the co-main event, Fabricio Werdum completely dominated the always-tough Roy “Big Country” Nelson, scoring a unanimous decision. Both men were awarded the Fight of the Night bonus after their performance.

The main event didn’t end up being the slugfest everyone had hoped for, but was still a decent, highly technical fight. Carlos Condit ended up scoring a unanimous decision victory Nick Diaz with the judges’ cards reading 48-47, 49-46, 49-46. A lot of people apparently feel Diaz should have won. I personally don’t see how, but I’ll concede that I don’t get the best view of the fight from a judging perspective. I had Diaz winning only one round, with one more being close. A very frustrated Diaz appeared to announce his retirement from MMA in the Octagon after the fight, stating that he’s “tired of playing this game.” Condit captures the interim UFC Welterweight Championship with the victory, as well as a brand new Harley Davidson motorcycle. Quote of the night comes from Condit at the post-fight presser when asked what Diaz was saying to him throughout the fight. He said at one point, after he threw a spinning backfist, Diaz said to him “Oh, so we’re throwing spinning shit now?” Carlos said, “I had to laugh at that.”

We tried out some strobes for the first time during live fights, with a couple lights mounted at different angles, and on different channels. I think they turned out great, especially the ones I shot from the press box overhead. This is definitely something we will be doing again. Big thanks to Nick Laham for the idea and allowing me to use them to capture a few shots. Also thanks to our always trusty assistant Mike Roach for helping with the rigging and testing.

Below is a selection of shots I captured throughout the night. Check out the rest from all our photographers on Getty Images and UFC.com.


UFC 143 Diaz vs Condit – Images by Joshua Hedges

UFC 143 Open Workouts Gallery

Just a quick update before I finally head to bed. The UFC 143 open workouts took place earlier today inside the Mandalay Bay Events Center. The six top fighters on the card – Carlos Condit, Nick Diaz, Roy Nelson, Fabricio Werdum, Josh Koscheck, and Mike Pierce – were all in attendance. As a special treat, welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre held a media scrum for about 30 minutes before the workouts started.

You can check out a selection of images from the day below. Also check out Getty Images and UFC.com.


UFC 143 Open Workouts – Images by Joshua Hedges