Back in the states

I had hoped to have more time to write while in Rio, but unfortunately I was up late working every night. Between the slow internet and horrible traffic, everything in Rio takes much longer. So, I’ll spare you all the boring details of the presser and weigh in, and move on straight to fight day.

I set out on my journey back to HSBC Arena in the early afternoon on Saturday. We weren’t three blocks from the hotel when our crazy van driver slammed into another car from behind. Of course, it was all the other driver’s fault. He had stopped at a crosswalk to allow a pedestrian to cross. But, in Rio, things like crosswalks, lane dividers, stop signs, and red lights are merely suggestions that are often ignored. When our driver finally let up on the horn and began driving again, we passed the car and realized who it was – former Strikeforce middleweight champ Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza. He had a few choice words and fingers for our driver as we sped past. Fortunately after that, we made it to the arena without further incident.

Because of the unpredictable traffic situation, I arrived at the arena far earlier than I needed to be there, nearly four hours before the first fight. It gave me a chance to test out the internet, clean and prep all my cameras and lenses, and prepare all my templates for the night. After that was done, I still had a good chunk of time before the fights started, so I went to walk outside and take some pictures of the arena and fans lined up. Of course, just as I made it out to the front of the arena, it started raining and I scurried back inside to sit and wait for the fights to start.

The opening bout between Reza Madadi and Cristiano Marcello got the fans going and helped set the tone for the night. It was a back and forth fight with both guys swinging wildly. It seemed to me that Madadi was getting the better of the exchanges, and Marcello’s swollen face tended to agree with me. I was a little surprised when Marcello was awarded the decision. The crowd was happy though and Madadi didn’t put up much of a protest, so I guess it wasn’t too bad of a decision.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – OCTOBER 13: (R-L) Reza Madadi punches Cristiano Marcello during their lightweight fight at UFC 153 inside HSBC Arena on October 13, 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

The rest of the preliminary fights had some great wars. I was thoroughly impressed with Rony “Jason”, who may just have supplanted Akiyama for the title of best walk-in song. “Jason” landed several nice flying knees and really battered Sam Sicilia, who was one of my favorite fighters to come from TUF Live. Francisco Trinaldo took it to Gleison Tibau and I thought he was going to get the victory. In the end, Tibau scored the decision, but even he looked a little surprised when his hand was raised. Trinaldo had him in all sorts of trouble, which I don’t recall seeing Tibau in since his first UFC fight against Nick Diaz.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – OCTOBER 13: (L-R) Rony “Jason” Mariano Bezerra punches Sam Sicilia during their featherweight fight at UFC 153 inside HSBC Arena on October 13, 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

The whole night was kind of a blur to me. We had no breaks between fights, so I was hurrying to download and edit whatever I could. I didn’t finally transmit my first images until just before the start of the main card. It’s never easy to shoot and edit your own stuff as the fights are happening, but I tried to make the best of the situation and I think in the end I did a pretty good job given the circumstances.

Demian Maia kicked off the main card with a very quick submission of tough wrestler Rick Story. That was by far Maia’s best performance in the Octagon. He is a whole different animal at 170 pounds, and I think a real contender for the title.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – OCTOBER 13: (R-L) Demian Maia secures a rear choke submission against Rick Story during their welterweight fight at UFC 153 inside HSBC Arena on October 13, 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

The rematch with Phil Davis and Wagner Prado followed. The two fought earlier this year in a bout that ended in a no-contest after Prado suffered and accidental eye-poke and couldn’t continue. The fight was a little slow in the first two rounds, and Davis appeared to be ahead going into the third. Prado started pushing the pace a little more and ended up getting caught in an arm triangle choke. He escaped that, but then quickly found himself in an anaconda choke that he couldn’t get out of.

Next up was what I hoped would be fight of the night, and that turned out to be correct. Erick Silva took a big step up in competition when he stepped in the Octagon with Jon Fitch. Silva came out swinging and Fitch absorbed a couple big shots before getting in close and scoring a takedown. But he really wasn’t able to do much with the first takedown. Silva got back to his feet and was noticeably a little more tentative, but still attempting some of his flashy kicks and knees.

In the second, Silva had Fitch is a very dangerous position with a rear naked choke all but sunk in. I’m still not sure how Fitch was able to power out of it because the elbow was under the chin and Silva had a good grip. Next thing you know, Fitch is on top and going for an arm bar of his own. This all happened just below me, which made for some great pictures.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – OCTOBER 13: (L-R) Jon Fitch attempts to secure an arm bar submission against Erick Silva during their welterweight fight at UFC 153 inside HSBC Arena on October 13, 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Fitch came out in the third with a mission to finish the fight. He got Silva down and quickly moved to mount. He alternated between mount and back mount through most of the round, landing heavy punches throughout. Silva escaped just at the end of the round, but the effort proved too little too late. Fitch scored the victory in one of his most impressive performances to date.

Next up was long-time hardcore favorite Glover Teixeira taking on a late replacing, but always game Fabio Maldonado. Teixeira blasted Maldonado right away and wobbled him standing. Something we really haven’t seen happen to Maldonado, who always brags about his granite chin. This allowed Teixeira to score a takedown and quickly move to mount where he punched and elbowed Maldonado for several minutes. How the fight was not stopped, I’m not sure. Near the end of the round, Maldonado managed to escape after Teixeira tired of punching. Maldonado landed a shot that stunned Teixeira momentarily, but wasn’t able to capitalize.

Between rounds, the doctor checked on Maldonado and allowed him to continue. His face was bleeding and badly swollen, but he came out swinging in the second. He was able to land a few more shots early in the round, but eventually Teixeira stormed back with some nice power shots standing that seemed to have Maldonado on the ropes. He continued to batter Maldonado throughout the second. Near the end of the round, time was called and the doctor again checked on Maldonado. Fabio pleaded his case and the doctor allowed him to continue. He survived the round, but the doctor finally stopped the fight between the second and third rounds. Teixeira was actually pretty upset with himself after the fight because he said Chuck Liddell told him to knock the guy out and he was not able to do so. Still, a very impressive performance by Glover Teixeira.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – OCTOBER 13: (L-R) Glover Teixeira punches Fabio Maldonado during their light heavyweight fight at UFC 153 inside HSBC Arena on October 13, 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

The co-main event featured Brazilian legend Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira against Dave Herman. The beef going into this fight stemmed from Herman saying that jiu-jitsu does not work. After battering and dropping Herman with punches, Minotauro proved jiu-jitsu does in fact work when he made Herman scream in pain from an arm bar submission.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – OCTOBER 13: (R-L) Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogeuira defeats Dave Herman with an arm bar submission during their heavyweight fight at UFC 153 inside HSBC Arena on October 13, 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

The night was capped by a masterful performance from the world’s best pound-for-pound fighter – Anderson Silva. He was taking on Stephan Bonnar in a light heavyweight, non-title affair. The match was thrown together quickly to save the event after both the main event and co-main event fell off due to injuries. For the first couple minutes of the fight, Silva purposely put his back against the cage and let Bonnar tee-off on him. Bonnar landed some very impressive shots and I was really surprised none of them were able to hurt Silva. After all, Chael Sonnen was able to hurt Silva in their first fight, and Bonnar appeared to be landing much harder shots. And then, as if he flipped a switch, Anderson Silva decided to finish the fight and it was over. A knee to the chest followed by a few punches on the ground and that was all she wrote. The crowd went nuts as Silva sat in his corner looking over at Bonnar. The referee asked Silva to come to the center for his hand to be raised, but Silva refused until he knew Bonnar was OK. That sums up the man that is Anderson Silva. He will knee you until you can’t continue, then feel compassion for you immediately after.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – OCTOBER 13: (R-L) Stephan Bonnar punches Anderson Silva during their light heavyweight fight at UFC 153 inside HSBC Arena on October 13, 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – OCTOBER 13: (L-R) Anderson Silva punches Stephan Bonnar during their light heavyweight fight at UFC 153 inside HSBC Arena on October 13, 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – OCTOBER 13: Anderson Silva reacts after his TKO victory over Stephan Bonnar during their light heavyweight fight at UFC 153 inside HSBC Arena on October 13, 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – OCTOBER 13: Anderson Silva sits in his corner after his TKO victory over Stephan Bonnar during their light heavyweight fight at UFC 153 inside HSBC Arena on October 13, 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Below is a full slideshow in chronological order from the night. I encourage you to also check out my site, as well as the full take on Getty Images and UFC.com.


UFC 153: Silva v Bonnar – Images by Joshua Hedges

Bom Dia, do Rio de Janeiro

This morning is the first chance I’ve had to collect my thoughts and write a proper blog. I arrived in Rio de Janeiro for my UFC 153 coverage two days ago on Tuesday morning. The first event on the schedule was yesterday’s open workouts which were held at the Arcos da Lapa in the center of the city.

The trip was expected to take a little under an hour by bus from our hotel at Barra Beach. Thanks to some late attendees, we actually departed about 45 minutes late from the hotel, so I didn’t expect much setup time once I got there. The drive ended up taking about an hour and ten minutes. The traffic in Rio is always horrible, so there is no easy way to plan for journeys in the city.

Once we arrived at the venue, we quickly unloaded and found a spot to store all our gear while we waited for fighters to show up. The setup was pretty much the same as all our previous UFC events down here. Outdoors with the mats up on a stage, cooking in the hot sun. The temperature outside just before noon was a nice 36 degrees Celsius (about 97 F). Yes, it’s the beginning of summer down here in the southern hemisphere.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – OCTOBER 10: A general view of the venue before an open training session ahead of UFC 153 at Arcos da Lapa: Praca Cardeal Camara on October 10, 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

The biggest issue we’ve had in the past with doing the workouts outside is the heat of the mats. They have tried a number of solutions, but all have failed. However, this time, the workers were certain they had solved the problem. I couldn’t believe it when they removed the towels from the top of the mats covering a layer of ice that had been spread over the mats. Just before the first fighter was to work out, the workers scraped off the ice and did their best to dry the mats. Of course, as soon as the mats were cleared, the sun started baking them again and they were incredibly hot by the time the workout started. I’ve told them since the first time they’ve tried this that there is no good solution, aside from having the workouts indoors, which of course they do not want to do. So, the only other option is for the fighters to wear their shoes when working out.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – OCTOBER 10: Workers spread ice to cool the mats before the UFC 153 open workouts at Arcos da Lapa: Praca Cardeal Camara on October 10, 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

The first two fighters to workout were Dave Herman and Stephan Bonnar. Both put on very abbreviated training sessions due to the heat. Once the Brazilians started showing up, the fans were treated to a little more effort on the mats. Workers struggled between sessions to try to cool down the mats, but their futile efforts served no real purpose. The afternoon sun was cooking the mats and there was very little shade to be found anywhere. To make matters worse, the tent where we had stored our gear was taken over by the band Linkin Park and their security would not allow us inside. So, I spent the majority of the nearly five hours standing outside in the sun with two increasingly heavy cameras hanging off my shoulders.

All the suffering paid off at the end of the day when Anderson Silva showed up. The light was beautiful and the champ put on a great workout, hitting pads and lightly sparring. The fans showed great appreciation. One fan in particular was brought on stage by Anderson’s team and treated with a personal meeting, photo, and an autograph. She was overcome with emotion. So, when it was all said and done, it was a pretty good day. I still wish there was a better solution than standing outside baking for five hours.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – OCTOBER 10: Anderson Silva works out for fans and media during an open training session ahead of UFC 153 at Arcos da Lapa: Praca Cardeal Camara on October 10, 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Below is a slideshow of my shots from the afternoon. You can also see the full take on Getty Images, as well as UFC.com. Stay tuned for more updates from Rio.


UFC 153 Open Workouts – Images by Joshua Hedges

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