Through the Lens: The Transformation of Tyrone Spong

Fightland Blog

By Ryan Loco (words and photos)

I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to document the training, travels, and lives of some of the best fighters in the world. They are generous with their time, and I repay them by putting all my effort into my photos of them. As Andre Kertesz once said, "Seeing is not enough; you have to feel what you photograph."

With this photoblog, I hope to provide a glimpse into the lives of MMA fighters--backstage, behind the scenes, and beyond. I want to take you places not everyone gets to go.

The Transformation of Tyrone Spong

I've said to anyone who will listen that Tyrone Spong is the scariest person I know. Usually the person I say this to responds by saying, "Who?" As a kickboxing champion, Tyrone’s stardom in the US hasn’t reached the levels it probably deserves, but his day is coming. Thanks to the Glory World Series 9 light heavyweight tournament this past weekend in NYC, I imagine it’s coming sooner than later.

The Glory tournament format requires that a fighter win three fights in one night to be crowned champion. I've documented a lot of training camps over the years but never one where a fighter had three opponents to prepare for. Tyrone is a different type of animal, though. He hated the 6am training sessions with Pedro Diaz but never missed one; during afternoon spring sessions, under the eye of coach Henri Hooft, he didn’t pull a single punch.

We landed in New York a couple of days before the fight. There was media to attend to and an unfamiliar weight cut; Tyrone normally fights at heavyweight. Tyrone’s day consisted of cab rides to Mendez Boxing on East 26th Street followed by interviews followed by smaller-than-normal meals followed by more cab rides to Mendez Boxing.

Come fight night we sat in the depths of Hammerstein Ballroom, listening to the muffled sounds of ring-entrance explosions and quick knockouts through the walls. As Tyrone warmed up, I saw him change from the Tyrone I know and love to the Tyrone I tell everyone to fear: pacing behind the curtain, head down, covered by a hoodie, draped in the flag of his homeland, Suriname.

Three fights and a combined 10 minutes later, it was all over. Tyrone was the champion … and back to the guy I knew and loved. 

Check out these earlier installments of Through the Lens:

A Man Alone

"Suga" Searches for Self

Florian's Weight Cut