Shots of Good Old-Fashioned Texas-Style MMA

Fightland Blog

By Mike Calimbas, as told to Amy Winters

I’ve shot televised MMA shows in huge arenas but I’ve also shot fights in smoky bars in college towns. They all have their own appeal and their own types of chaos, so I like them all. It’s almost like every other weekend I’m driving around [Texas], just going where the work is. My car’s odometer hates me.

I’ve learned I’m never really happy with what I shoot for the most part. It’s kind of like when you’re a kid spending hours working in a coloring book then you slip the crayon past the line just a little bit and get all mad. You crumple up the paper and throw it all away like all that time you just spent didn’t even matter. That’s kind of how I am with my photography work. Out of hundreds of thousands of shots, I’m literally only happy with a few at a time. Then months later I learn something new or my preference of style changes, and I don’t even like those anymore. Then I feel like I have to start all over again like the coloring book. This whole thing is like an albatross that way. It’s like chasing a personal perfection that you won’t ever quite reach. 

I’m so dialed in to the fights themselves that sometimes I wish I could focus more on the crowd’s reaction to those big hits you see in the cage. I need eyes on the back of my head.

A lot of the fighters and promoters I see are ones that I’m acquainted with and have been for some time. I’d even count some of them as “real” friends. Be that as it may, I try not to get too emotionally involved in fights or the stuff surrounding them. I think that comes from writing and working with so many people that compete against each other. You have to be neutral and focus when it’s business time. That includes when shooting fights. Injuries and the other tough breaks fighters endure are tough to stomach, especially when it’s a friend, but my role is to capture those moments for history, not mentally throw myself into the middle of them.

Check out more or Mike's work here

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