Workin’ the Press Side at UFC 104: Part Two

At last! Weigh-in day was finally upon us but the day started much earlier with a UFC and Spike organized media breakfast with Shane Carwin and Brandon Vera.  This was wonderfully refreshing, and not for the food, but it was a great format for interviewing fighters.  First up was Vera, who sat in the center of a circle of reporters and recorders, eating fresh fruit between questions about his family life, fighting Randy Couture, and love of video games. Apparently he’s done with ODST.

After quite some time, the media finally ran out of questions and Carwin entered, fielding questions about his day job, signing autographs for coworkers, and talking smack with Brock Lesnar. Too bad this fight is now postponed, I was really excited about it especially after listening to Carwin speak at length about his life. Again, it was really neat to interview a fighter in this very relaxed setting — very intimate, lots of humor and honesty.

I left home by the time this posted and neglected to bring any photos of this breakfast but you can check out Ariel Helwani’s interviews with Shane Carwin and Brandon Vera on MMA Fanhouse shot by Casey.

After a short break at all elbows HQ, we headed to the weigh-ins tent atop the LA Live parking garage, which was nice and toasty inside from the many Los Angeles UFC fans. Fighters Only posted a gallery here. It was my first time at UFC weigh-ins and I regretted not following Sherdog’s Dave Mandel everywhere since he knew exactly where to sit to get a good angle on the face offs. I was perched on my camera case on the opposite end. Ah, live and learn.

And then finally it’s Saturday!  Fight night arrives with a ton of Michael Jackson “Thriller” zombies roaming around outside the Staples Center.  I finally get in and am assigned an overhead spot.  Well poo.  I don’t own an extender nor could I have rented the 400mm lens required for nice images from my position.  But hell, I’m here so I shoot mostly so I can see the fight, then again, help from Sherdog, Dave lends me his 2x extender.  Hooray!

The night keeps getting better as I’m then offered a cageside seat by a colleague who will remain nameless but not without thanks after the Joe Stevenson/Spencer Fisher bout.  The photos I shot are exclusive to Fighters Only Magazine’s next issue, so you’ll have to check them out in print.

As for the shooting experience, the apron was a tad larger than I expected but not impossible to deal with, except my sweater was too thin to protect my delicate elbow skin.  And yes, it was quite exciting on the floor.  While not as jaw-dropping as Premium Dynamite!! — the atmosphere at UFC is very exciting.  The music is mixed extremely loud (which makes me wonder what it was like to hear Dimmu Borgir at this volume) making Shogun’s dance music really chilling.  It’s one of my production beefs with other shows (including the ones I’ve worked for) that they just don’t make the music loud enough and of course, don’t often let the fighters choose their own due to crazy DVD rights issues.

It was also crazy to hear the crowd switch from chanting “MA-CHI-DA” to “SHO-GUN! SHO-GUN!”  I think many of the fans who came to see this fight perhaps forgot what Machida’s style was like and quickly abandoned their fanship.  Personally, I was so enthralled by the match that when the last round ended, I could’ve sworn only four had passed.  The crowd is quite unhappy, Shogun is unhappy, Machida looks like he’s hiding his unhappiness, and now it’s my cue to grab the rest of my gear and head into the post-fight press conference.

Casey put together this seven minute highlight of the presser (see below), which lasted over an hour, and was the most depressing scene. Cain Velasquez sat on one end, the thunder of his win stolen by an early stoppage (even though he would’ve won), Machida next to him, blotting his bleeding lip the entire time, a grumpy Dana White in the center, a pissed Shogun sat by Anthony Johnson who lost out on bonuses due to his missing weight, and there was Joe “Daddy” — the only one on the panel smiling.

Damn, this post is lame without photos.  Check back in a week for updates when I get my act together.  Maybe.  I’m at the hotel in Hoffman Estates right now, excited for Fedor Emelianenko vs Brett Rogers.  I spent my first night here eating alone in the hotel bar (only 30 rooms filled in this 291 room hotel) and then defending MMA to curious locals having drinks & nachos over the Texas vs Oklahoma State game. I’ll post some photos of Jake Shields training at the Gracie Academy later today.

2009/11/02 | Filed under MMA, Photo, Video and tagged with .


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November 2009