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:
The Mixed Martial Arts of Victorian London
Before BJJ, there was Bartitsu.
Jonathan Maicelo: The Last Inca
Peru's up-and-coming boxing star.
Kron Gracie on Jiu-Jitsu, Skateboarding, Older Brothers, and Famous Fathers
The ties that bind are strong.
Joel Tudor on the Art of Surfing, Fighting, and Style
A surf icon helps MMA keep its sense of tradition.
Japan's Karate Kid: Kyoji Horiguchi
Japan's brightest MMA prospect.