UFC Rio Gallery

Well, I’m finally back in the states after the long journey from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to Nashville, Tennessee. I spent most of yesterday relaxing and recuperating, though I did walk around a bit in the rain during the afternoon. It would have been time better spent working on this blog post, and for that I apologize.

UFC Rio: Aldo vs Mendes (aka UFC 142) was a good night of fights overall. As always, I was in Rio covering the event for UFC and Getty Images. But, unlike my last time in Rio, this time I was the primary shooter. Justin Heiman from Getty made the trip down from New York to edit for me, and he did a great job picking all the best shots and getting them out literally as they happened.

Between rounds and during slow moments of fights, I do my best to keep a check on the images I’m capturing to see if I got “the moment” and to tag any “keepers”. Justin managed to find quite a few great shots that I missed, and that always makes me really happy. It’s cool to witness how someone else might see a scene from a totally different perspective and use creative crops to make something out of nothing.

As I’m sure most of you are aware, I was well prepared and caught the full sequence of what could quite possible by the knockout of the year – Edson Barboza’s spinning back kick against Terry Etim. No doubt this was one of my favorite shots from the night. Up to that point though, the fight really wasn’t anything spectacular, and if not for the kick, there probably wouldn’t have been any decent shots from it. My how things can change in just an instant.

Another memorable moment from the night that really cannot be illustrated in photos was the energy of the crowd as Vitor Belfort took control and finished off Anthony Johnson. I could literally feel the crescendo of the crowd in the closing moments of the fight, and by the time the contest was halted, the sound level in the arena was deafening. I turned around on my box to take a look at the crowd and I saw a wave of people moving towards me like a herd of cattle. I’ve only ever seen something like that on TV during a big soccer match. It was incredible. But none of the pictures I snap really capture it like I remember it in my mind.

I really felt bad for Chad Mendes in the main event. I thought he was putting on a good performance and looked very calm and collected. It’s a shame for him that a deliberately illegal fence grab prevented a takedown and led to the ending of the fight. And for a fight to be halted with only one second left was crazy. Of course the referee doesn’t know how many seconds remain if he’s paying attention to what’s important, and it was a justified stoppage. But I think there will always be that question now of what would have happened if the fight had continued into the second round. Nevertheless, Jose Aldo showed everyone why he is the best 145-pounder on the planet and one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world.

Below is a gallery of some of my best shots from the night. Check out Getty Images or UFC.com for the full take.

UFC 142: Aldo vs Mendes – Images by Joshua Hedges

UFC 142 Weigh In gallery

Greetings again from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Today we trekked across town to the HSBC Arena for the first time this trip for the official weigh in for UFC 142. For those who have not been to Rio, the HSBC arena is in the Barra district on the grounds of the Olympic Training Center (Centro OlĂ­mpico de Treinamento) and very near to the future site of the Olympic Village. It’s quite a ride out from the beach areas, taking 30-45 minutes in good conditions and more than an hour in “normal” traffic. Couple that with the manner in which people drive here and it makes for quite a roller coaster ride.

Before the official weigh in, UFC Brazil host Paula Sack conducted a Q&A session with UFC Heavyweight Champion Junior dos Santos. I couldn’t tell you most of what they talked about as it was all in Portuguese and there was no translation provided. From my little knowledge of the language, I can tell you that Junior spoke of his respect for Jon Jones, Cain Velasquez, and Brock Lesnar. That’s about all I got.

Once the weigh in started, the crowd became increasingly restless in anticipation for the two feature bouts and their Brazilian contestants, Jose Aldo and Vitor Belfort. In bouts where there was a Brazilian fighting a non-Brazilian, the crowd would chant “VocĂȘ vai morrer” or “You’re going to die”. Apparently it’s not meant as a death threat in the native language, but more like “You’re going down”. We experienced the same chants last go-around at UFC 134, so I was prepared for it. Joe Rogan, who did not attend UFC 134, was quite surprised when the translator told him the meaning of the chant.

All fighters made weight, save Anthony Johnson. I know many will find that as no surprise as Johnson has come in heavy twice before for UFC bouts. This time, according to his manager, he was on target to make the weight when his body shut down and he was ordered by a doctor to re-hydrate. Ultimately, Johnson weighed in at 197 pounds for his 185-pound bout against Belfort. Joe Rogan announced to the crowd immediately after that Johnson must weigh in again tomorrow before the contest and can weigh no more than 205 pounds. One would have to assume that will still mean Johnson must be in starvation mode overnight and will not be 100% fit for the contest.

By the time I finished the edit and caught a ride back to the hotel, it was after 9:00 pm. I decided to head out to eat at a local steak house. It was not quite as good as Porcao from my last trip, but was much closer and cheaper, so a good score in my book.

In preparation for the late start tomorrow night, I’m attempting to stay up as late as possible tonight. First bout tomorrow will be around 10:30 pm local time with the final bout ending somewhere around 3:00 am. With some luck, I will hopefully be back at the hotel and in bed by 5:00 am. It will be a very long day/night, but should be some great fights.

For now, here is the gallery of shots from the weigh in. For the full take, as always, check out UFC.com and Getty Images.

UFC 142 Weigh In – Images by Joshua Hedges

UFC 142 press conference gallery

This morning, we piled into the van and made the trek to Copacabana Beach, about an hour away, for the UFC 142 press conference. On the ride out, I shared the van with UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo. It always amazes me how happy-go-lucky this dude is. He’s got one of the biggest fights of his life coming up in a couple days, with a whole country on his shoulders. But there is no pressure. He’s just laughing and making jokes with his teammates.

The jokes continued throughout the presser, though I couldn’t tell you what he was saying. I wasn’t listening in to the translation. He had the audience busting up at times though. Other than that, the presser featured the usual list of responses to questions that we seemingly hear at every press conference, such as “I’m in the best shape of my life,” and “My opponent’s tough, but I know if I can execute my gameplan, I can win.”

Luckily, the media was much more subdued this time around. There was no pushing or shoving or jumping in the way of my shot. Though I expect all that to return the next time Anderson Silva fights in his home country.

The ride back to the hotel was shared with Chad Mendes and Anthony Johnson, and included a hilarious phone interview quote by Johnson. I didn’t hear the whole line, but I’ll just say he somehow worked in the phrase “a whole lot of speedos” into his first answer. Good times.

Below is a selection of images I pulled from the full take that went out to UFC.com and Getty Images.

UFC 142 Press Conference – Images by Joshua Hedges

UFC 142 open workouts gallery

Greetings from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I’m down here covering all the events this week for UFC and Getty Images. Our first event of the week was the Open Workouts, which took place earlier this afternoon at Barra de Tijuca Beach, just down the street from our hotel. Up until today, it had been raining and misting the entire time I’ve been here. Today, the sun finally decided to shine a bit. Though, for the most part, it was overcast. Even though it was cloudy, it was still very hot and humid. So hot that none of the fighters would workout on the mats without shoes on.

The crowd this time around was not as large as the last UFC Rio open workout in August for UFC 134, but I don’t think anyone expected it to be. There was still a good amount of people surrounding the mats.

Before the fighters took to the workout platform, a host of guest fighters and Octagon girls mingled with the fans for an informal meet-n-greet. Then, the real action kicked off with Anthony “Rumble” Johnson working out first. He was followed by Chad Mendes, then Vitor Belfort, then featherweight champ Jose Aldo closed out the day.

Below is a slideshow of the full gallery I transmitted to UFC.com and Getty Images.

UFC 142 Open Workouts – Images by Joshua Hedges

UFC 136 Weigh In

Just finished up my edit for the UFC 136 weigh in. As usual, covered for UFC and Getty Images. I’m a little fried from the long day, so I’ll get right to the good stuff. All fighters made weight, though a couple had to drop their drawers and utilize the towel. Chael Sonnen looked ripped. Gray Maynard looked confident, if even a bit cocky. Jose Aldo was all smiles, as usual.

Below is a selection of my favorite shots.

UFC 136 weigh-in – Images by Joshua Hedges

UFC 136 Open Workouts

Another day covering UFC for Getty Images. Today featured the UFC 136 open workouts for 8 of the feature fighters on the card. We also got our first peak at the layout for the UFC Fan Expo as the workouts were held in the Octagon inside the George R. Brown Convention Center.

As is typical for open workouts, the available light was minimal. So, I took the opportunity to use my off-camera wireless flash unit which I secured to the top of the cage with a GorillaPod. This made for a highly stylized look that I think turned out great. Not much interesting usually happens at these open workouts. Fighters typically don’t do anything strenuous two days out from their fight, so anything you can do to create your own drama helps.

Some members of the Houston Dynamo soccer club were in attendance and came in the Octagon for a publicity stunt that saw featherweight opponents Kenny Florian and Jose Aldo battling each other in a “kick off”. Both guys were high level soccer players prior to their fighting careers, so it proved interesting. Though UFC PR guru Dave Sholler declared it a draw, I scored it a clear victory for Florian.

Below is a small selection of my favorite shots from the day.

UFC 136 Open Workouts – Images by Joshua Hedges

UFC 136 final presser

My first full day on the ground in Houston had me covering the UFC 136 pre-fight press conference for UFC and Getty Images. Even though it was an hour earlier than normal, it still wasn’t bad for me as the Toyota Center where the presser was hosted is across the street from my hotel. I love it when things work out like this, though it’s very rare.

Not much of note to report from the press conference. Chael Sonnen was rather somber and not talking much, if any, trash today. Quite a change for his usual presser behavior. Brian Stann was all class, as usual. Not much was asked of the four championship headliners on the dais – Frankie Edgar, Gray Maynard, Jose Aldo, and Kenny Florian. The pace was pretty fast and before we knew it the guys were facing off. Maynard got right up in Frankie’s face, but Frankie didn’t back down at all. That made for a couple good shots.

Here are a few of my favorite shots from the short shoot.

UFC 136 press conference – Images by Joshua Hedges