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 Military Base Visits

Yesterday morning, we got up at 7:00 to head downstairs for a special appearance with UFC fighters Carlos Condit and Roy Nelson. We met our Navy liaison Jay downstairs and departed the hotel for our adventure. I didn’t really know what to expect, other than a long day. We arrived at Naval Air Facility Atsugi, in Kanagawa prefecture, about an hour later and that’s where the real fun began.

Upon arrival at the Navy base, we first stopped at McDonalds for everyone to grab a healthy breakfast and coffee, then headed over to the Liberty center, which Jay runs, to meet a couple staff members and gear up for the rest of the day. The center he has put together is really impressive. They have a gaming room with pool tables and foosball; a theater room with a large projection screen, beanbags and lounge chairs, and even a popcorn machine; a separate lounge area with numerous flat screen tvs and massage chairs; and a media lounge where they have a nice array of computers and a mini-music studio with sound-proof booths for drums and guitar/vocals. It was very impressive to see the investment of funds into providing our troops with a relaxing outlet.

Our first stop on the base tour was Strike Fighter Squadron 195 (VFA-195), aka the “Dambusters”. We arrived at the hanger just in time as they were sending out approximately 30 F-18’s for a training mission. The noise level was deafening throughout the whole visit, but it became apparent right away how special this day was going to be. Seeing the response from the sailors, the smiles on their faces, was awesome. We had limited time with each squadron, so we only had about 15-20 minutes to sit and chat with them. After a group photo, which saw Roy Nelson strap in some headgear and climb atop a plane, we were off to our next stop down the flight line.

Up next was VFA-27, aka the “Royal Maces”. This was a slightly smaller squadron, but the sailors were equally enthused. I had a good chat with one of the sailors, “Woody”, about various bombs and missiles they had in the hangar. He also gave the chance to see the inside of one of the wings of an F-18 that was being repaired and wanted to show me the cockpit, but due to our limited time it wasn’t possible.

After that, we drove down to the end of the flight line to visit VFA-102, aka the “Diamondbacks”. Our guide quickly pointed out this was his favorite squadron as it’s where he had spent some time during his enlistment. The PAO quickly took us out on the flight line to get an up-close view of one of the F/A-18 Super Hornets and take some pictures in front of it. We came back inside the hanger to do more autographs and pictures, just as some of their planes were returning from the training mission.

After the visits to the fighter squadrons, we headed over to the Navy Exchange (NEX) for another autograph signing and ticket raffle. Troops and their families lined up out the door to meet and greet Roy and Carlos, and through out the time they would draw numbers to give away tickets to the fight. What I saw at the NEX that has left a lasting impression on me is the families behind these amazing troops. It was something else to see all the women and children who are apart of our great military system.

We had a little downtime after the signing, so we grabbed a quick bite to eat at the food court before heading back to the Liberty center for a few more photos with the staff.

Our time at Atsugi was up, so we loaded back in the van for Jay to drive us over to Camp Zama Army Post about 15-20 minutes away. We navigated through various narrow streets until we came over a hill and arrived at the main gate. The security guards examined our official orders and waved us through. We stopped at the PX for an autograph signing with troops and their families. We were here in the front lobby of the PX for about an hour before heading out to the next stop.

We actually had a bit of time before our final scheduled appearance, so our Army guides took us to an on-base sports bar to relax for a bit. We watched the Lakers vs Thunder for about 45 minutes before heading over to the Zama Youth Center.

The Youth Center was a brand new facility, and I must say as a father, I was truly amazed. What they have built for the military children and the services they provide are simply incredible. The facility had a state of the art computer lab, several entertainment rooms with various games for all ages, a homework/study room, a craft room, a ballet/dance room, and a full-court basketball gym with a rock-climbing wall. It made me so proud to see them taking such an interest in the well-being of the children who are effected by their parents’ military deployment. It was a very nice cap to an awesome day.

Below is a gallery of images I shot throughout the day.


UFC Japan Base Visits – 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