I had an amazing week in Everett, WA.
Casey and I had the opportunity to follow around Strikeforce Champion Sarah Kaufman and challenger Roxanne Modafferi as they prepared for their title clash, their fight, and after. Thank you to both Sarah and Roxy for letting me into their lives at a time when most fighters need space and quiet. The chaos of fight week wasn’t helped by Casey and I pointing cameras in their faces but they opened up to us and we’re grateful as filmmakers and fans.
Casey is working on the final installment of the fight journal right now.
Fight night was no less chaotic, despite having the show routine down. From the check-in to handwrapping to the production rehearsal — everything worked as usual but I was surprised at my own calmness and it frightened me. I was about to watch two people who I really admire fight each other in the cage.
This is a growing problem for me as I spend more and more time around fighters in the context of my role as Strikeforce’s official photographer. Unlike at UFC events, I am around these fighters for days — I see them as they are cutting weight, we run into each other at local restaurants and end up dining together often, we are in the same hotel and we’re even in the gym at the same time. I now know that Shane Del Rosario, from Irvine, California, had never had a beignet, but was now smitten with the sugary fried cajun dessert. That’s all outside their Strikeforce obligations. After seeing my dumb face all over Everett, I spend another ten to twenty minutes of personal time with each fighter in my studio session.
And then on fight night, I’m in and out of the locker rooms, seeing them at their most intimate pre-fight moments, their rituals, their nervousness wreaking havoc in their heads but strengthening their resolve.
The fights all amazed me. Yes, even as Roxy and Sarah battled for control in the clinch, I tensed and stayed ready, knowing that their tangled arms would snap at some point. I knew Sarah would push back and punch, I knew Roxy would try and get close again. As the rounds went on, I could see Roxy’s exhaustion setting in, while Sarah stood smiling in her corner, calmly listening to her coach Adam Zugec. It was only a matter of time.
While I can’t stand to see anyone lose, I also revel in an amazing win like Sarah’s. I couldn’t be happier for Sarah, yet I was simultaneously heartbroken for Roxy. It was also nice to see Del Rosario, whose career I’ve followed back during his days in EliteXC and even before that at an MMA show in an Orange County gym, win against the concrete-chin Lolohea Mahe.
The next morning, we sat with Roxy at breakfast and then Sarah came into the hotel restaurant and we all conversed for a bit. I stole a spoon for Sarah and Roxy recounted how Sarah’s supporters and students from Zuma welcomed her back to the hotel last night. I asked for a photo with the two warriors before boarding the van to the airport.
This was one of the most entertaining fight weeks. Made wonderful by Roxy, Kunioku, Shu, the comedy duo of Sarah and Adam, “Greggy” and Julie’s fight night “that’s what she said,” our thankless Strikeforce transportation team (especially Eric and Will), and of course, the Strikeforce and Showtime staff (thanks Annie) for allowing Casey to shoot backstage.
Here’s my fight night gallery. Thanks for tuning in.