It’s not a secret that we here at All Elbows are longtime fans of Mo Lawal, as we’ve done pretty much all his pre-fight hype videos since meeting him in Japan last year. But I have also worked with Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante since his days at EliteXC and I honestly couldn’t be prouder to see him succeed. I remember standing on that North Shore beach watching him and Anderson Silva grapple lightly for Casey’s camera. While the victory was both wonderful and painful, I know to keep shooting, keep doing what I do best, because that’s how I do my part for these fighters. And losing is just as much a part of the fight game as winning.
A glutton for punishment, as I finish up my work with Strikeforce for the night, I stay up until 7 am on Sunday watching Sengoku 14. My tired eyes are glued to Santiago vs Misaki II. You can see Dan Herbertson’s amazing photos of that entire event here. The sounds of the broadcast blend with memories of my own fight night that just passed.
As housekeeping comes in the morning to clean the room, I bound up after three hours of sleep, unable to stop my mind from whirling.
So much happened. I have to admit, I was feeling really sick all night. Not sure if it was my hunger (I mistimed my meals and basically neglected to eat before the show) or my own nervousness for fighters I’d spent the entire week (and year) shooting but I felt warm, a little sick, and very exhausted.
My night got going with a bang as I walk into the cage after Adam Schindler submits Kier Gooch. I see Schindler is very excited. And I’m pretty thrilled too. Schindler just gave me one of the best photos I’ve ever taken in a fight, papered and tied with a bow holding the submission in front of my camera.
I wait until he’s done high-fiving and leaping around then I enter the cage. I stand in front of a GoDaddy.com post so as not to block any other photographers for the hand raise. Schindler is still pacing and celebrating. Suddenly he’s in front of me and he throws a punch in the air — I think — Ben Fowlkes of MMAfighting.com says it was a high-five attempt gone wrong — and he punches my camera, which then hits me in the face. Hard. I hear it crunch my teeth, my nose. It doesn’t hurt a lot but my nose feels really big. More than anything, I’m failing at my job right now. I’m standing around in disbelief when I should just keep going. I turn around and curse. I’m shocked at my own ridiculous inability to compute.
The ref raises Schindler’s arm then tells the fighter what he’d just done. Schindler hugs me and apologizes. Jimmy Lennon Jr. tells me later that this is shown on the in-arena monitors. Embarrassing.
I walk out of the cage to shoot the next fight and I get swarmed. Everyone is asking me if I’m okay. The cage crew manager tells me I’m bleeding. I wipe my nose. Nope, just one drop. No big deal. But my nose hurts. Casey runs up to the cage corral, he’s not allowed in because he doesn’t have the right credential. He asks if I’m okay, tells me he was ready to get beat up by Schindler to defend me. Ready to go Team Cesar Gracie, he says. I know Casey always has my back.
I have a nervous tick where I like to push on my nose, press on the top like a button. I have always done this when idle. I did it several times after I was bashed and kept forgetting it would hurt to do so. I wonder if this incident will correct this bad habit of mine.
The rest of the night goes as you probably have already read and seen. There’s not much to say except that I’m proud of all the fighters. Even Schindler. It would’ve happened eventually and I’m glad I wasn’t hit on my podium.
My Houston friends came to the show and that was a real honor. One of them even said I’d been taken out by “Schindler’s Fist.”
My dizziness and general ill feeling wasn’t helped by the little bump, and by the end of the post-press conference, I was ready to faint. Luckily, FIGHT! Magazine’s Paul Thatcher, one of my personal photographic heros, took me and Casey to Spanish Flowers in the Heights for a late meal of chorizo and fresh tortillas. Saved me. I’d been hoping to drag along Dave Mandel, Sherdog‘s photographer, but he had an early flight to catch. He’s someone I’ve known since my first fights and this week, many kind people told me how I’m the best in the biz and how much they love me — I couldn’t help but blush and deny, because really, Dave taught me all the basics, he gave me my first real shooting advice, and always treated me like a peer, a professional.
I watched Crazy Heart tonight and love that scene where Tommy Sweet and Bad Blake are eating dinner and a fan comes up to ask for Sweet’s autograph. The fan gushes. Sweet says, “Thanks but here’s the autograph you need,” and points to Bad Blake but the fan doesn’t know Bad Blake wrote most of Sweet’s songs, taught him everything he knows. People saying nice things about me with Dave Mandel sitting right next to me made me feel like Sweet. I know who is really hardcore.
Anyway, this is gonna turn into a lovefest for all my colleagues if I don’t stop now so please just enjoy the photos — this is a trimmed gallery from the one on SHOSports’ flickr site. Check out Ariel Helwani’s interview with the new Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion, Rafael Cavalcante, here. Thanks for all your support and thanks for watching the show.