BAMMA 15 – Alex Montagnani vs. Nathan Jones

This weekend we’re all set for the long awaited matchup between two of London’s most well known fighters, Alex Montagnani vs Nathan Jones – BAMMA 15 at London’s Copper Box Arena. Both fighters have held belts at Fury in the last twelve months and both are well liked on the London scene, this is a fight that the fans down here have been waiting for  for some time on a stage that befits the occasion – BAMMA 15 at The Copper Box Arena.

BAMMA 15

Nathan is a regular at UCMMA where he keeps on racking up first round wins and has shown that he is a well rounded combatant having a current record of 4-0-1, each win coming in the first round each by submission with one exce[topm which was finished off in under a minute of the second. Nathan fights out of Combat Company in Richmond.

Montagnani on the other hand is coming off a loss at Fury 9 where he stepped up to middleweight against Michael Beaumont. In my opinion this was not a good matchup and the weight didn’t suit Alex at all, fighting someone at their natural weight did him any favors at all that night sticking to his natural weight is much more suited. He currently has a 5-1-1 record all by KO / TKO / Punches. Alex hails from South East London’s  New Wave Academy based in Crystal Palace.

BAMMA 15

The journey of both fighters couldn’t be more chalk and cheese. Montiagnani comes from a family rich in martial arts history, his father started teaching his son at age four showing that you’re never too young to start the game. Motagnani Snr was in a good position to start teaching, his own repertoire includes Amateur Boxing, Aikido, Judo and BJJ.  Alex is now attained blue belt BJJ and a judo black belt. Alex naturally made the switch to MMA to combine his skills and learn more  in the striking  arena. Alex has trained regularly with Max Nunes at NWA. He has also spent time training at Alliance in San Diego and Tristar in Canada where he spent time with many of the top fighters in the sport. Alex has recently started giving back to the community working with Colin Nwadike at Lewisham and Southwark College showing the kids how its done, bringing a positive change to those who may not have come across the sport previously, or wanted to try something a little different.

BAMMA 15
Jones on the other hand had a defining moment when after a night out he was set about by some youths who got the better of him. It was this event that made the Richmond man decide to make changes to his life, ditch bad living and start to look after himself. He started to live a ‘yes man’ life and when a friend asked if he fancied a trip to Combat Company, he couldn’t say ‘no’. I don’t believe Nathan ever set out for revenge on those guys in any way, but wanted to make sure that a similar situation wouldn’t happen again, if it did he’d be on a position to look after himself knowing that he was all the better for the terrible experience he had previously had.

Since then Jones has regularly been a face on the London circuit at Fury and UCMMA. One of the new school of fighters Jones almost immediately started training MMA as opposed to Alex’s early single discipline mostly in grappling which may make him a more rounded fighter. Jones currently holds a blue belt BJJ and brown belt in kickboxing (one off black), not bad progress for someone who has only recently started out, this shows the dedication, hard work and maybe a little natural talent goes a long way. I know that Nathan also works hard and has been a youth worker for almost ten years now, again giving back to the community.

BAMMA 15

Jones has been a master of marketing himself with his moniker of Mr Bag and Tag, something which has a ring to it given the manner in which he has dispatched recent opponents, he’s a good crowd draw as well and seems to get the twelfth man in the cage with him when the crowd are on his side. He’s also good at the banter game and likes to wind up opponents on Facebook and Twitter a fair bit, all in good humour though.

Surprisingly the banter from Mr Bag and Tag has almost been non existent for this fight. Could this be a sign that the fighter is taking the BAMMA event far more seriously than others or possibly a sign that he’s worried about his opponent being his sternest test to date or is it simply that Nathan has a busy life at present.

Alex in contrast just gets on with it, he has no interest in pre-fight antics preferring to let his skills do the talking on the night, he’s the quiet but deadly type, you know when he’s in the room though.  This will be the biggest stage both fighters have appeared on and there could be a great deal of nerves for the pair of them performing at the Copper Box which can hold up to 6.500 screaming fans. Who will handle it better and cope with the pressure positively? Will one fighter already have lost before the door to the octagon closes?

BAMMA 15

As for who will win, I’m not really qualified enough to point out one vs the other, Motagnani is traditionally a grappler, but has won all his fights through his striking ability, Jones on the other hand and caught all of his opponents with submissions using his BJJ skills. It would appear that both fighters have a stack of supporters, each post, interview or picture has a similar number of fans commenting that their guy is going to take the win. I really like both fighters and have grown to know them over the last eighteen months, both staunchly support fighters out of their gyms and put the miles in cornering for them, looking after the more inexperienced who are taking their first steps seems to be as important as taking part in bouts themselves and for that both Nathan and Alex should be applauded, its the true spirit of the MMA fraternity, its all about the team.

I probably see each at least twice a month and they’re  always happy and willing to shake hand and share a joke together, I can honestly say that there is nothing I dislike about either in any way. I really can’t pick a winner to this bout, neither my heart or mind will sway either way. From a photographic perspective I hope that the fight lasts longer than one round, I don’t have many pictures of either fighter in action as neither of them likes working overtime.

My one hope is that they both put up a great bout at BAMMA 15 and that neither get seriously hurt at the end of it. Hopefully for both the winner and the loser this will be a step up towards bigger things and fighting on a global stage very soon.

Nathan Jones – FACEBOOK // TWITTER

Alex Montagnani – FACEBOOK // TWITTER

Killacam Fight Night 7

Last weekend we took a trip to Margate for Killacam Fight Night 7 Invictus. I’ve never been to Margate or to a Killacam event. To be totally frank, I wasn’t sure what to expect, however I’ve met the promoter Cameron Else several times both at events where he was spectating and at Cage Warriors where he was competing. I really liked him so thought it would be worth a try. The drive was easy, and we found Margate Winter Gardens easily. Stepping into the event I was pleasantly surprised. A lovely traditional space with a great large cage for the fighters, plenty of tables meaning that the punters wouldn’t be too cramped as well. Cameron warmly greeted and briefed us and issued passes and we were set.

 (Mark Blundell)

The event kicked off on time at 6pm with the only amateur bout on the  xx fight card. As the event progressed so did the skill of the fighters, all evenly matched and mostly from local clubs Silverbacks and Jordan Millar with a few others thrown in for good measure. By 7pm the venue was full, another couple of photographers turned up and we happily agreed to share the ladder and take it in turns. Just how it should be, professional respect and helping each other out.

 (Mark Blundell)

The main card was superb, a step up from a regular local show with fans from the clubs getting involved in cheering their fighters on. As the evening ramped up so did the excitement and noise.

 (Mark Blundell)

The final bout was between Ben McGonigle and Frenchman Ylies Djiroun. Earlier in the evening Cameron had told me that he had to go to the airport to pick up Djiroun, showing his commitment to the event. I’ve seen Ben fight on UCMMA a few times and really like him, both as a fighter and as a person, always happy and always up for it. I knew this was either going to be an easy one round bout for one or the other fighters or a total war. I was glad that it was the latter. The first two rounds defiantly went the way of the French guy, he landed some vicious elbows right in front of me resulting in a massive bruise on the cheek of McGonigle, as the fourth started it was obvious that both fighters were heavily fatigued.

 (Mark Blundell)

Ben stepped it up and gave a master class in body blows, stomach and obliques being the target. It wasn’t long before Djiroun dropped to the canvas. Ben was quick to capitalise on the fall, however the ref stepped in before more damage could be done. Both fighters were totally drained, the war of attrition complete with McGonigle showing once again that he is a tank and can take an amazing amount of stand up punishment.

 (Mark Blundell)

All in all this was a superb evening of entertainment from all involved. I really couldn’t have asked for a better setting, organisation or crowd from a show of this size. Cameron certainly has a winning formula and in my opinion should stick to it.

Photographically I couldn’t have asked for much more, the cage was large giving fighters space to move and the lighting great meaning that I didn’t have to push the ISO too much. Added to this there were only three or four photographers so no one was getting in each other’s way and we a mangled to easily work around each other.

Check out the post fight interviews on the MMAPLUS Youtube channel.

The only downside was that I got home quite late and Palace Kebabs was closed.

Killacam Fight Night 7

full gallery

Pro Bouts

Ben McGonigle def. Ylies Djiroun via TKO (punches) rnd 4 new KFN lightweight champion

Matt Robinson def. Jorden Miller via sub (triangle) in 3.19 of rnd 1

Romain Roberts def. Nathan Sparks via sub (RNC) in 3.15 of rnd 2

Semi Pro Bouts

Alex Lohore def. Barry Ryan via split decision

Denzil Duncan def. Kaine Bingham via unanimous decision

Brady Cann def. Mark Harris via sub (RNC) 2.17 rnd 2

Darren Steward def. Chris Kennel via KO in 2.51 of rnd 1

Makesea Mwanza def. TJ Simmons via sub (Guillotine choke) at 2.38 of rnd 1

Liam Bird def. Ben Lukey via sub (RNC) rnd 1

Undercard

Alec Connelly def. Steve Wise via sub (Armbar) in 1:39 of rnd 1

Karlos Kaminskas def. Ryan Mairs via TKO (strikes) at 2:01 of the rnd 1

Jamie Peach def. Jack Duffy via unanimous decision

Chris Saunders def.Jason Collins via TKO (strikes) in 0:21 of rnd 1

Danny Thompson def. Luke Plamer via unanimous decision

Ben Conway def. Ben Ford via sub (Kimora) in 1:30 of rnd 2

Thomas Terdjman def. Richard Tutt via sub (RNC) in 0.48 of rnd 2

Thanks to MMAPLUS for the company driving as always.

Image Usage and Copyright

As I have progressed on my mixed martial arts photography over the last seventeen months my kit has improved as have my images, I’ve now attended thirty five events in this time. I’ve got a decent name for myself in the industry and am fairly well recognised in the South of the UK. I’ve been lucky enough to have been asked to be official photographer for BAMMA and another couple of smaller events, this is indeed an honor and greatly appreciated as a vote of confidence in my work, that I can turn out quality images quickly to those who employ me. During this time I have also shot plenty of fighters at gyms, some for my own benefit to hone portraiture skills and some for my colleagues at MMAPlus.

Tom 'Kong' Watson (Mark Blundell)

When I started out I was super happy to give my images to magazines fighters and generally whoever wanted them free of charge, especially if I had asked to attend an event myself or spend time with one of the guys at their gym to shoot them as well. However there comes a point when anyone whatever their trade realises that the time and effort that is put in is worth more than exactly ‘nothing’ and one then has to think about charging for work, be that as a single payment for a photoshoot, or for images of a particular fight. I’m not comfortable in my mind with the fees that I charge and I’m pretty sure that they will stay at current levels for a while until I feel that I am good enough to take a step up.

Jimmy Wallhead Vs. Florent Betorangel (Mark Blundell)

Here lies the rub. My images are sold at as little as £2.00 each for a small shot, something that is suitable for a Facebook posting. I used to leave my galleries without watermarks until a fighter at a recent event took iPAD screenshots of around fifteen images, which I thought was a bit of a liberty. On went the large watermarks at the foot of the picture, leaving peole to crop them out. I have therefore been forced to have larger watermarks that you see in the pictures now. Still people continue to do exactly the same, but at least my logo is present. See HERE // HERE

As I have been lucky enough to shot up and coming fighters when they make a step up my images start to appear on other websites – for instance HERE // HERE // HERE and below is the original picture which was taken on my first encounter with MMA at my local club New Wave Academy

Max Nunes

On one hand a photographer, or any tradesman wishes their work to be recognised and saeen by as many people as possible (I have very good SEO), on the other the copyright needs to be protected.

Anyone who downloads my images for PERSONAL use should realise exactly that is – Personal USE alone, i.e. not to pass to magazines or events without the photographers say so. My terms of use are HERE.

Previously I believed this to be a bit of a grey area, however there has been a new release of the “Copyright Notice: digital images, photographs and the internet” document from the Government Intellectual Property Office, it can be found HERE. For me, the most pertinent parts is shown below.

copy1

copy2

The document does however point out that if images are posted (by the photographer) to a social media site that they will be governed by terms and conditions of that website – ie Facebook / Twitter and Instagram. There’s a great article HERE by Tim Gilbreath that goes into more detail and what to do about it.

For instance see HERE  and the oiginal pic of Nathan Jones HERE

I’m generally a reasonable guy, and if someone wants my image for a website or print we can have a conversation and deal with it, however its frustrating when an image I gave to someone appears on a poster without my permission, or when we loosely agreed that they could use it for one purpose and it turns up elsewhere. This has happened on several occasions and its very annoying. This could be my own fault for not being 100% clear about the terms. In future I will rectify this and send a link to my own usage terms with all pictures and would strongly urge others to do similar.

Although a website may insist that credit will be given, that doesn’t pay the bills and I know for a fact that camera equipment is not cheap and we all give up a lot of our time for the sport and pleasure of taking shot of the athletes at work. I have mentioned before in posts both here and on Facebook that on the whole it takes around twenty hours from leaving my house to finishing processing. Would you honestly do twenty hours work for someone if the only recompense were to be that they told you that you did a good job?

Copyright infringement can be dealt with via the small claims court online (HERE) and as far as I am aware no appearance in person in necessary.

UFC Fight Night Gustafsson vs. Manuwa

UFC Fight Night Gustafsson vs. Manuwa fight day was upon us yesterday and to say I was excited was an understatement. Ive never been to an arena of the sixe of the O2 for any event let alone for a fight night so i was expecting good things. Once checked in I casually took a look at my pass to see….. CAGESIDE. Awesome. This was my first UFC event in the UK and I wasnt really sure what to expect. In Sweden I was up in the cheap seats so had a very different experience.

 (Mark Blundell)

 

This was very slick, quality media room, catering and all mod cons. Luckily another photographer who Id came across before (Steve Mitchell) was there so sort of took me under his wing a little. Walking out into the arena was immense. I was trying hard to be Mr Cool I must admit. I’ve done MMA photography often enough to know the ropes so wasn’t too phased by it to be honest, kit ready and we’re off.

 (Mark Blundell)

We’d spent a lot of time with the fighters and despite not knowing the majority of them at the run up to te event after carrying out interviews I felt that I had some small insight into their psyche. It was great to see the jovial guys with whom we’d chatted only the day before enter the arena with their work face on ready to do battle. I particularly warmed to Louis Guadinot, with his flamboyant dress sense and green hair and despite his opponent being British and from GymO1 in Portsmouth I was sort of rooting for him and cast a smile when he sunk in a deep choke causing Harris to tap in the first, there was nothing the Englishman could do.

 (Mark Blundell)

Of course Cambridge man Luke Barnatt was on form, and managed to gain a win over Mats Nilsson towards the end of the first, the result expected . Luke for me is one of the nicest guys I’ve met in the game, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, he has his head screwed on, for him its business. I’d previously discussed with my buddies in the week about the relatively short shelf-life of a fighter and Luke is doing everything right to maximize his exposure within the sport, he’s intelligent, articulate and also quite humble, all superb qualities to have. I’d really like to do a proper photoshoot with the guy too.

 (Mark Blundell)

Pickett vs. Seery was a great bout, both giving their all from the start. Brad is one tough cookie and always puts on a great display, however credit where it’s due, the Irishman put up a good fight and despite being the underdog too the fight the distance only for Pickett to get the nod from the judges. It was the expected result, however not many thought that the fight would go the distance. I see a bright future for 2Tap in the division despite his defeat and given that he took the fight on short notice the Londoner made hard work of the night.

There have been suggestions that the pair should have gained Fight of the Night for there bout, however with neither fighter finishing his opponent I can see why the main event got the nod. With recent changes in the bonus award structure the UFC is pushing for finishes and exciting fights from competitors, not a decision from the referee or judges.

 (Mark Blundell)

The biggest letdown of the night for me was Melvin Guillard vs Michael Johnson. We’d spent time with Guillard during the week, he came across well, a little cocky, but in a good way, not being afraid to tell it how it was. Exclaiming that his previous and supposed opponent Ross ‘The Real Deal’ Pearson wouldn’t accept a rematch after their previous bout was ended early. He spent the entire three rounds back peddling trying to avoid a confrontation. Possibly both of the fighters were aware of each other’s explosive power and timing consequently nullifying any chance of combat. The rematch between Guillard and Pearson was slated for the Berlin outing on May 31st, however after this result, that might not come off.

 (Mark Blundell)

Jimi Manuwa cut a forlorn figure when he entered the press conf after the show, I can imagine that he would have felt more comfortable in any other place than having the cameras on him. He really had no need to be down though, despite his defeat I felt that he acquitted himself well having fought the worlds number two. I’m sure that his pride is dented, however he still retains the lions pride and I have no doubt he’ll be back.

Alexander Gustafsson vs. Jimi Manuwa (Mark Blundell)

Although Manuwa spent a good deal of time on his back during the first Gustafsson was unable to capitalise on this just tiring the Croydon mans left arm, in fact Manuwa was able to escape from the ground position and get back to how feet to stand and trade once again.

Alexander Gustafsson vs. Jimi Manuwa (Mark Blundell)

So what’s next for the pair? I have no idea where Jimi will end up after his defeat, another top ten opponent hopefully possibly in the US. Jimi will have to get his skates on though, at 34 there will be a lot of up an comers snapping at his heels in the coming years. Let’s not forget that Gustafsson was also beaten by Phil Davis in UFC 112 however the Swede will undoubtedly face the victor of the Jon Jones vs. Glover Texeira fight at UFC 172 in Baltimore.

 (Mark Blundell)

With every loss there is a win, Jimi has a great team around him and they will take positives from the performance to ensure the same doesn’t happen again. Dana White in the post fight interview mentioned that he may take Manuwa overseas to fight next time. The quiet man will be given another chance to roar and be the pride of the country. In addition Jimi said that he would really like to remain with Gustafsson, a prospect which the Swede accepted and I think would welcome, who better to learn from than the man that just beaten you, again the fighters showing the respect that they have done since the fight was announced.

I hope that Manuwa can take a lot from the experience of being top of the card, from being thrown into the limelight, doing press appearances which he clearly wasn’t comfortable with at first to dealing with such a big platform on which to perform. This really was two steps forward and one back for him, however Jimi is by no means back where he stareted and proved that he can handle the big stage and all that it entails.

 (Mark Blundell)

A favorable home show in Sweden was quashed by the UFC president Dana White during the post fight press conference due to time difference with the pay per view audience on the natural home soil of the UFC in the US. This is a shame as it would be a great coup for Garry Cook The EMEA boss. White did however say that he thought it wholly possible to have a title fight in Europe at some point. Previously in the week he had also mentioned that there were no plans to have a two tier structure with EMEA playing second fiddle to the States ensuring that the talent is spread around the world. In my opinion this is a great decision, one heat may see a home grown undercard with the main card populated as it should be.

My overall impression if the event was a great one. Some of the staff had been extremely helpful all week, we played but he rules and hey helped us out with interviews and fighter access. As always fight night was great and gave me an insight into the media side of things, the reporters rushing back and forth after fights for interviews in the stacked media room, mikes thrust Towards faces of the ecstatic winners and saddened losers who would probably rather be anywhere else.

 (Mark Blundell)

From a photography perspective UFC Fight Night Gustafsson vs. Manuwa was an absolute dream to work on. The lights were bright allowing for fast exposure and although there was a large apron around the cage, we had plenty of room to move to get some great shots. I’m very happy with my images from the event and although not quite up there with the very best, I’m gaining and learning with each outing still trying to cement myself towards the top of the pile. I’m still very much second division compared to some of the pros, but looking for promotion this season.

That wrapped a hectic week for me and the team working with MMAPLUS. Next week we’re down to earth with another event at the O2, this time at the smaller IndigO2. We have to keep it real and support grass roots as much as the big shows.

Full Gallery of images

UFC Fight Night Gustafsson vs. Manuwa

Thanks go out to  MMAPLUS // Chamatkar Sandu // Jorden Curran // Abbey Subhan

* note I am a photographer not a writer or journo so please appreciate the copy bay be a bit poor!

UFC Fight Night London – Gustafsson vs. Manuwa at O2 Arena

After the last three days of hard graft its time for the main event  - UFC Fight Night London – Gustafsson vs. Manuwa at O2 Arena. This will be the biggest MMA event that the UK has seen, the O2 sold out 16,000 tickets some time ago such is the demand. The event will be for the first time shown on Channel 5 terrestrial as well as BT sport in the UK, this can only mean good things are in the offing for MMA in the UK.

Over the last three days I’ve been working with MMAPlus ahead of the event this evening. Its been hard work, long days and very tiring, but interesting to see how the pre-production runs and great to meet some of the fighters, film interviews and take a few pictures.

Once again all of the fighters we have met and interviewed have been absolute stars, all gentlemen and all very accommodating to the media people. Its been lovely to meet some people whom I normally only chat to on Facebook or Twitter and to reacquaint myself with others who I cross paths with only occasionally.

Luke Barnatt Mr Big Slow as always gave a great interview, the guy really has his head screwed on and understands the business side of things, he’s someone I really like in the industry, a great sense of humor and drive for being the best he can.

 (Mark Blundell)

I can’t really pick out one highlight moment, however our interview with Melvin Guillard was interesting, he didn’t hold back and came across very well indeed showing a ;lot of personality. I really like the guy. Also his conversation with regard to Ross Pearson rematch was interesting, saying that there was possible judging bias in the initial fight (3.45 into the video) and that Ross hadn’t been asking him for another crack at the whip. Ross on the other hand said earlier that he was up for another fight and that Melvin was up for it too only an hour or so prior to this. Someone clearly isn’t saying the exact truth, however the census was that the rematch would take place in Berlin on 31 May.

 (Mark Blundell)

Another great interview is our chart with Forrest Griffin, we managed to catch him on the couch in the hotel and grabbed some great insight into his life as the winner of TUF #1 way back in January of 2005. He’s a really entertaining fella, outgoing and a total gent with a bit of a comical streak.

 (Mark Blundell)

Friday as always was weigh-ins – everyone made weight and pleased the crowds. The Q and A was great as well with Forrest once again being cheeky and looking at home on the sage equally so Conor McGregor, the old and new taking their place. From a media perspective Conor has it totally nailed, always happy and always willing to appease the fans. Joining thee pair was Ross Pearson and Jo Calderwood, the latter still getting used to the media attention. Hopefully she will acquit herself well in The Ultimate Fighter 20 house.

As for the main event at UFC London Fight Night – Gustafsson vs. Manuwa,  the question everyone is asking – who will win – Gustafsson or Manuwa? When Jimi took his shirt off for the weigh-in there was a gasp from the assembled crowd as if to say – look at him he’s MASSIVE’ – UFC President Dana White in the post weigh-in scrum said that “Manuwa was in the best shape of his life”. The fight has comparison to that of the earlier bout between Gus and Jones, the former coming in aas the underdog with nothing to loose and everything to gain. This time the tables are turned. Jimi could well cause an upset.

 (Mark Blundell)

Comapred to Alex’s taller and more rangy In my opinion Gus seems to have the upper hand having gone the distance with Jon ‘Bones’ Jones and being the first person to take him down. however having witnessed Manuwa in training both striking at his home gym and grappling at Nova Forca with Ricardo da Silva I really believe that he has a good chance of taking the victory. I’m sure that Manuwa will try to keep the fight standing to use is massive hitting power, Gus will try to take it to the ground and submit his opponent. The betting odds are stacked in favor of the Swedish fighter and odds on the fight going the distance are high. My money is however going on a Manuwa win via KO or TKO in the second round.

The overwhelming feeling that I got from all the people that we spoke to was however that the fighters all really enjoy what they do – sanctioned violence. They know what they are getting into and know that they have a chance to win, even the big underdogs. Fighting is they’re job and they all really enjoy it. Who would rightly go to work in a role which involved getting hit in the face if it wasn’t fun.

I wish each and everyone of them the best of luck for this evening, lets hope that all of the fights go down in an honorable fashion and that there are no major injuries.

The full Gallery will be going up here :

UFC Fight Night London – Gustafsson vs. Manuwa

 

 

UFC London Countdown

Six days to go until UFC Fight Night arrives in London. Prior to that we have a stack of work to do. Press duties are taken up from Wednesday through to Saturday, lots of work is on the horizon and far from being three days off work, this will be three days of hard work I have no doubt.

This is a very important event I the calendar for UKMMA and the UFC as a whole in the EMEA region. BT have been pushing MMA through BT Sport, added to this Channel 5 have picked up the nights entertainment on free to view. This is significant as the sister Channel 5* is the only other way to view terrestrial MMA in this country showing the irregular but excellent  BAMMA events.

Although I am entrenched in the industry I’m getting a real buzz off of the community getting behind the home fighters, especially Jimi Manuwa who is taking on the excellent Alexander Gustafsson. Manuwa is the underdog, much as how us Brits like it. This time I’m confident we wont be beaten in the semi-finals and that Jimi will bring home the bacon for the country.

Gary Cook

Gary Cook

Gary Cook has a lot riding on this event, the lower status Fight Night with no titles on the card mean that interest in the US may not be at a peak on Saturday, however the reach to prime time in EMEA is key. The event is mostly staffed by European and UK fighters so can only help to strengthen the division and show the stateside fighters what’s on offer.

The remainder of the week will, I have no doubt pan out well, new alliances forged and old ones strengthened. We’re in for an exciting time and despite my short time in the industry I really do feel that we’re on the cusp of something special.

Stand and Bang

Another Saturday and another event for me. This time Stand and Bang in Woking in a ring with ropes as opposed to an octagon with fencing. Yes it was time for a bit of K1 / klickboxing and straight boxing.

This isn’t my normal fare however the few kickboxing events that I’ve been to have been great fun, both photographically and from an action perspective. Stand and Bang is run by Kyle ‘Ringmaster’ who organizes, produces and MCs on the night. He’s a top guy all round. Prior to the kick off Kyle was quote stressed ensuring that everything was how it should be, making sure that his event was spot on for all in attendance. Once the lights went down and the tux was on like superman an air of calm descended and he was in his element presenting to the  people in attendance.

George Beach vs. Reinaldo Santos (Mark Blundell)

The first bout was between two amateur youths, ( JAY MILLER VS. WESLEY CLARKE ) who gave a Great account of themselves proving that age should be no barrier to the sport and youngsters can compete just as well as the adults. Anyone who thinks it’s wrong seeing kids go at it in a combat sport needs to get their head checked. These two did a great job of showing the sport at its best.

Jay Miller vs. Wesley Clarke (Mark Blundell)

The second bout between LUCIANO MENDOLA and MACE RUEGG  almost got fight of the night. To young combatants fighting each other with the no fear attitude that only youth can bring. For x rounds both fought hard and fair with the exception of one picking the other up, youthful exuberance taking hold for a split second.

Luciano Mendola vs. Mace Ruegg (Mark Blundell)

The remainder if the card was made up of adults at different weights from local clubs and some from further afield including a gym from

Boxing was also on the agenda as well as kickboxing and that also delivered with a few good bouts on the card, the highlight of which was ROY KELDIE VS. PIERS RAVENHILL

Roy Keldie vs. Piers Ravenhill (Mark Blundell)

The final set of fights were for ISKA titles and delivered in spades. Great entertainment and skill shown by all. For me I enjoyed GEORGE DAVIES VS. TRISTAN TATE. I scored the first round as a draw, duriung the middle rounds it looked as if  Tate was tiring, Davis having him on the ropes and boxed into the Shinkick Gyms corner for a while. Tate,  egged on and encouraged by his sibling Andrew Tate (himself 2x world kickboxing champion) survived the round after a few shaky moments. After the break and strong words from his corner Tate recovered and managed to get back into the fight. Tate finished strongly and got the win on the judges cards leaving him to take the belt home after a two year lay off from competitive pro rules combat.

George Davies vs. Tristan Tate (Mark Blundell)

All in all,this was a superb evening of fighting from start to finish, all fighters showed courage during their time in the ring and respect whether winning or loosing after the end of the fights.
Kyle’s attention to detail was superb, making sure that fighters, staff and guests had a great evening. Unfortunately there was a small scuffle on the crowd, however this was soon resolved by he security at the HG Wells centre and some choice words from the ringmaster and proceedings soon got underway again.

Tariq Shafiq vs. Karl Langley (Mark Blundell)

There really is nothing not to like about Stand and Bang and I would use anyone interested in a high octane night to check out the event in the future. I know that there is already another in the pipeline billed as a more amateur event which of its half as good as this one will be a great day out.

Cage Warriors 64

The date for my birthday was to be Cage Warriors 64 at London’s Kentish Town, another card stacked full of talent  with the main three events being fighters that I had previously watched in some very exciting fights. Danny ‘Hot Chocolate’ Roberts, Jake ‘Brutal’ Bostwick and ‘Capcom’ Cory Tait. The undercard was no less exciting with several fighters who I have come to know a little bit over the last eighteen months as an MMA photographer.

Danny Roberts vs. Juan Manuel Suarez (Mark Blundell)

Cory Tait managed to get the win over James Pennington in the first round after a flurry of exchanges. The pair ended up on the ground against the cage with Pennington on top only got Tait to manage a headlock which transitioned into a guillotine choke leaving the south coast fighter no option but to tap out.

Cory extends his record to 8-2 halting Pennington’s three win streak on Cage Warriors 64

James Pennington vs. Cory Tait (Mark Blundell)

Fight of the night went to a justly deserved battle between Jake Bostwick and Boubacar Balde. After a slow first round both fighters came out for the second more animated and aggressive. Some slick ground work saw Bostwick jump from side to full mount several times and getting to work with some ground and pound, Balde managed to weather the storm and took advantage of Bostwicks hastiness and managed to gain control dishing out some tasty elbows and opening up a two inch gash on Bostwicks forehead which started to bleed immediately. The third round kicked off and again both fighters took it to each other, Balde looking to capitalise on the earlier cut. Both fighters ended up against the fence trading short blows until Bostwick gained control and got Balde to the floor for some payback. With the final 10 seconds sounding Bostick did his best to finish off Balde raining punches and elbows onto the head of the Frenchman.

 (Mark Blundell)

Despite this being the first outing with the organisation at  Cage Warriors 64 for Balde he put up an excellent fight and I’ll be very excited to see him back in the cage again sometime soon.

Boubacar Balde vs. Jake Bostwick (Mark Blundell)

As always Cage Warriors 64 was a slick operation, easy entry and well organised, mostly due to each part of the card being streamed on the internet, there was very little ‘MMA’ time here. From a photographic perspective the event was top drawer, great lighting makes for great pictures. With the punters allowed into the Cage Warriors 64  venue at around 6pm the prelim card was underway at 6.30. At 11.00 the show was over, a capacity crowd filed out of the venue having watched a superb night of fighting.

Click the link for the full CAGE WARRIORS 64 galleries

CAGE WARRIORS 64 MAIN CARD

Cory Tait def. James Pennington via submission (guillotine choke) – Round 1, 2:35
Jake Bostwick def. Boubacar Balde via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Danny Roberts def. Juan Manuel Suarez via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Nad Narimani def. Benjamin Brander via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 1, 4:53
Laura Howarth def. Amanda Kelly via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Matt Inman def. Gregor Weibel via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)

CAGE WARRIORS 64 PRELIMINARY CARD

Brad Wheeler def. David Howell via submission (arm-triangle choke) – Round 1, 4:46
Spencer Hewitt def. Cameron Else via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Charlie Watts def. Andy Kerr via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
Andrei Manzolo def. Dan Edwards via submission (armbar) – Round 1, 3:36
Daniel Crawford def. Huseyin Garabet via TKO (strikes) – Round 2, 2:43
Veera Nykanen def. Kirsty Davies via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

Manuwa vs. Gustafsson

First post of the year for me and its a good one. I’ve been suffering from camera withdrawal symptoms over the last few weeks so was glad to get the call from MMAPlus to invite me to Gymbox for a quick lunchtime shoot for the Manuwa vs. Gustafsson fight at UFC Fight Night London on March 8th.

Jimi Manuwa vs. Alexander Gustafsson (Mark Blundell)

Both Jimi and Alex were on a week tour of the UK and Sweden before making final preparations for their bout later next month. It was funny to see both of the fiughters together in close quarters and although not really speaking to each other during the time we were shooting each fighter expressed respect for the other. It must be rather strange spending the week with someone who in only fourty five days will be stood in the octagon ready to punch you in the face.

Jimi Manuwa vs. Alexander Gustafsson (Mark Blundell)

Alex having fought Jon ‘Bones’ Jones last year and gaining recognition for fight of the year seemed far more at ease with cameras and interviews, possibly far more used to it than Jimi. However having met Jimi a few times I know he’s a quiet guy who likes to let his fists do the talking.  Even without the cameras I’ve not really seen him open up in conversation apart from with trainers and colleagues in his gym  (Lions Pride) in Croydon.

Jimi Manuwa vs. Alexander Gustafsson (Mark Blundell)

As to who will win the Manuwa vs. Gustafsson fight. The odds are in Alex ‘s favor, however Jimi could well come and bring an upset he’s 14-0 since 2008. I know he is training hard and has the heart to win. I’ve seen him sparring up close and personal so I know where my money is going on March the 8th I have to side with the local lad from no more than five miles from my house.

I really do hope that #LionsEatFirst.

Full gallery for Manuwa vs. Gustafsson is here. 

 

 

MMA Photography Roundup for 2013

I thought it would be good to do a review of my year, most likely like everyone else is going to do.

I had set myself a few soft goals this year, mostly based around my MMA photography, I wanted to shoot a UFC event and to become the ‘official photographer’ for an event and actually get paid for it. Both of these I’ve managed to achieve. It’s taken a stack of work, time and effort, but it’s been worth it.

This year I’ve managed to got to around twenty events, some months taking in one each weekend. This has meant that I’ve had to make sacrifices in my personal life which has been a shame, but my other half has been very understanding of my MMA Photography habit which is a godsend.

Rafael Gorka vs Servket Cerkez (Mark Blundell)

I’ve been working with MMAPLUS and they have been extremely helpful in opening doors enabling me to shoot people that I would not have had access to or the motivation to chase so this has helped me out immensely Roberto has been a bit like a training partner as we help each other along when we’d rather be at home with out respective partners or out not he beer with friends. I’ve managed to take pictures at UFC in Sweden, admittedly from the cheap seats miles away, but the experience was fantastic. UCMMA and Cage Warriors have welcomed me as have BAMMA. The latter taking me on as official tog for BAMMA 14.

As for next year, I have a couple of targets, one is to cement myself as one of the top MMA photographers in the UK, there still loads of faults in my shooting so I still need more practice to get my technique nailed. I don’t think I’ll ever be as good as I want to be, but that’s a good thing as it means I will always strive to be better at each outing.

 (Mark Blundell)

I’d like to improve my skills shooting fighters portraits and gym shoots as well as branching out into a bit of kickboxing and Muay Thai.

Shooting cageside at UFC in March is the short term target though. I really want to watch Jimi Manuwa smash it against Alexander Gustafson in London.

The more I continue to shoot MMA events the more I learn, this time last year I didn’t know a rear naked choke from a triangle (rather like some more notable people on the scene), now I’m understanding more and more, still can’t hold a proper MMA conversation, but I’m getting there.

 (Mark Blundell)
Massive praise must go to the people who put on the events, it’s not easy to match make, however some people have this down to a fine art (Brian Adams). The promoters need massive praise too, its not all UFC and there are some superb local shows worth a look as well as the larger events. Some local events tread a very fine line from a financial perspective and the promoters take massive risks. I know of at least one where a considerable amount of money was lost despite the event being excellent, the stars of tomorrow come thought the rails of local events and these should be supported as mischief as possible.

Things I liked this year:

  • Meeting so many dedicated top level athletes, from local clubs to UFC stars.
  • Spending time with people I wouldn’t normally meet or socialise with from all walks of life, everyone being equal.
  • UFC in Sweden was cool too.
  • From a purely personal and selfish point of view, it was nice to be recognised and have people praise my work, not something that happens in my day job.
  • Shock n Awe, this I really enjoyed, despite not having answers to my mails for the last one so not being able to attend.

 (Mark Blundell)

Things I disliked

  • Not much really, getting home from events and finding that the kebab shop was closed, thats never a good situation.
  • It would be nice to be paid to shoot too, fuel isn’t free and it’s a popular misconception that all the togs are on the payroll, that’s simply not the case but that’s a whole different discussion.
  • Events with too many photographers are not much fun to be honest, we all end up with crowded seating, no one getting the best shot and getting in each others as well as the paying punters way, IMO it’s counter productive.
  • People taking screenshots of my images and using them on FB pages. I really don’t mind if you take one or two, but don’t take loads of of my website,. This has prompted me to put watermarks across the middle of pictures, not something that I want to do, but something I have no option to do.

 

Jimmy Wallhead (Mark Blundell)

People I need to thank:

  • MMAPLUS for giving me opportunity and being my wingman
  • All the shows that have had me along to take pictures, KAYO, Fury, UCMMA, Cage Warriors, IFC, Shock ‘n Awe, Enfusion, Smash.
  • The people that have bigged me up throughout the year Colin Nwadike and Nathan Jones especially Izzy at BAMMA for providing me with my first official photographer role.
  • I’m sure there are more that I should give a shout out to as well, the fighters and their trainers for giving us all some superb fights shouldn’t go without mention either.

As a thanks to everyone who has followed my MMA Photography over the last year, here’s a 20% discount code for purchases from my image hosting website HERE.

Use MMA2014 at the checkout

(expires 2014-01-19)

 

BAMMA 14 – LG Arena

Well what to say about the event this weekend…. BAMMA 14 promised a lot with a stacked card, the audience expected a lot from what would be the last event of the year before the Christmas break, everyone was looking forward to some time off after a full year of  relentless training and working I think.

 (Mark Blundell)
Once again this was a milestone event for me, it’s the first time I have been asked to shoot for an event, so I was happy to oblige, lo and behold I was BAMMA 14 Official Photographer for the night.
The card delivered on its promises, great bouts from top to bottom. Paul Semtex Daley delivered a trademark punch to knock out his opponent in the second round having used the first to sus out his da Sliva.
 (Mark Blundell)
Colin ‘Freakshow’ Fletcher was unfortunately beaten with a rear naked choke after having a sustained period of stand and bang with Mansour Barnaoui. Fletcher looked to be on top however made a mistake after being a bit too eager when on top leaving his neck exposed for the choke. Barnaoui retained his belt.
 (Mark Blundell)
Judo Jim Wallhead managed to avenge his defeat at the hands of Eddy Ellis at the previous BAMMA with a win over Florent Betoeangel. The people’s champion once again showing he is made of stern stuff finishing off the French fighter after only 21 seconds of the third.
 (Mark Blundell)
My local fighter Max Nunes had something to prove after is last outing in Birmingham. Max is most likely the fighter that I have seem the most of and I’m pretty sure that this is the first time I’ve witnessed him go three rounds and get a decision. The first round was a slow affair with both fighters trying to gauge their opponent. Nunes was rocked in the second though as a thunderous punch to the body dropped Max to the canvas, Pascu paused before pouncing on his opponent, possibly for a split second too long. The time allowed Nunes to come to his senses and decent the mount, his long limbs keeping the strikes away from his head and body. There could have been a call for the ref to stop it then and find in favor of Ion Pascu, but he let it go on and for Max to in the end be victorious.
 (Mark Blundell)

The remainder of the fights were equally exciting, chokes, three round decisions and of course knockouts made this a great evening. If BAMMA continue in this vein they will keep many people happy next year. They’re the only event with terrestrial TV coverage and an expanding TV audience throughout Asia.

Full BAMMA 14 gallery 

 

Win Paul Daley
Romario Manoel da Silva
Knockout of 3 01:42
Win Mansour Barnaoui
Colin Fletcher
Submission (tap out) of 3 04:00
Win Jimmy Wallhead
Florent Betorangal
Knockout of 3 00:21
Win Max Nunes
Ion Pascu
Decision (unanimous) of 3 05:00
Win Wayne Murrie
Michael Johnson
Submission (tap out) of 3 03:23
James Saville
Win Tom DuQuesnoy
Technical knockout (strikes) of 3 04:04
Wendle Lewis
Win Leon Edwards
Knockout of 3 01:20
Win Harry McLeman
Matt Howard
Decision (unanimous) of 3 05:00
Zi Shah
Win Andy Craven
Submission (tap out) of 3 00:37
Win Tim Wilde
Jefferson George
Technical knockout (doctor stoppage) of 3 03:42
Win Tim Menzies
James Samuda
Technical knockout (strikes) of 3 03:16
Win Matt Hallam
Curtis Widmer
Technical knockout (strikes) of 3 02:15
Win Ed Arthur
Ben Rees
Technical knockout (doctor stoppage) of 3 05:00

 

The Wedding Present Play “Hit Parade” at Shepherds Bush

Another superb gig from The Wedding Present. The band performed Hit Parade in its entirety. The set started with a few favorites, after third song Kennedy I could have left just then happy! David Gedge was on form as ever and despite twenty years of playing still showed as much vigor as I witnessed when I was a teenager in Portsmouth. The line up of the band has changed since then but the foursome still play a tight quartet and show immense enthusiasm for the songs.
The Wedding Present - Hit Parade (Mark Blundell)
After tog duty was completed I retired to the bar for a cheeky couple of pints and headed to the front. It wasn’t long, possibly from the February to March tracks that I found myself in the mosh pit. The audiences advancing years (baldies with glasses some of whom were a little portly) didn’t dampen their fervor and there was plenty of jumping about with the occasional causality falling over but eagerly helped back up. Everyone was smiling and having a great time. I often have a look around at the audience and love to see the smiles and singing from the crowd, this evening was no exception, my eye was particularly taken by a family to my right pint he balcony, mother and father with their two daughters, one didn’t look too impressed, the other singing along to every word. They both looked about ten years old, they’ve done a good job those parents!

The Wedding Present - Hit Parade (Mark Blundell)

Being a tog I had seen the set-list and knew the last song would be one of my all time favorites Pleasant Valley Sunday, a cover of The Monkees hit. I would be happy to take this one to the desert island. Finished off with a great jams e flourish between the musicians I really couldn’t ask for more except a repeat of the night tomorrow.

The Wedding Present - Hit Parade (Mark Blundell)

Every time I go to a gig I remark how awesome live music is and this was no exception, TWP totally rocked the shepherds bush empire. Just have to wait another year for the next one.

Full set of  The Wedding Present Play “Hit Parade” at Shepherds Bush here. 

 

Combat Company Richmond

Second trip to Combat Company Richmond for me and this time I was here to take some pictures of Nathan Jones and his buddies Jack and Chase. As always we had a warm welcome. I was admittedly a bit short for time so got on with sorting lights out ready for the shoot. I really enjoy taking portraits and appear to get better and better with each go so very happy with the results.

 (Mark Blundell)

The guys were on great form and as always having a bit of a laugh and joke as we shot away. It was a short visit and I’d like to go back again for more, this time maybe doing something outside as I find martial arts gyms pretty uninspiring places to be honest, generally open spaces with poor natural light and horrible ceilings so doing something interesting isn’t always easy.

 (Mark Blundell)

These shots were taken with a single large softbox, its a very simple setup really and yields great results.

 (Mark Blundell)

 

 

 

BAMMA 13

BAMMA 13 was a big deal for me, having covered UCMMA and cage warriors this was the final organisation of the top three MMA events that I had left to cover. I’d also done quite a bit of work with MMAPlus for the magazine with Jimmy Wallhead and of course local hero Max Nunes was top of the card as well.

After the short trip up to Birmingham and a prior shoot with Vaughan Lee we checked into the hotel and made our way to the arena for BAMMA 13, met by Izzy we relaxed in the media area and caught up with the Front Row gang who are constantly great value for money, very knowledgeable and a great laugh as well. Briefed and ready to go we were shown to our respective areas and given the standard ground rules, no flash, stay pretty much where you are as people moving around looks poor on the video.

Colin Fletcher vs. Tim Newman (Mark Blundell)

As always the card was excellent and there were some great fights. Unfortunately the two fighters that I really wanted to win failed to do so. Most notably Judo Jim lost however was able to break the jaw of Eddie Ellis in the first, most of that round was spent with blood pouring from Ellis’s mouth as he mounted Wallhead from behind. credit to Jimmy, he defended well and showed great strength.

Jimmy Wallhead vs. Eddy Ellis (Mark Blundell)

Nunes met a similar resolution via John Jones who unleashed a plethora of kicks and punches that simply overwhelmed Max. The fight was concluded in the second after a stoppage by RNC. Speaking to Max’s coach Colin afterwards it appeared as if Max wasn’t 100% mentally there on the night. I have no doubt that he’ll be back stronger next time though.

Jason Jones vs. Max Nunes (Mark Blundell)

 

Full set of images from BAMMA 13 are here.

 

Enfusion Live

Enfusion Live was a new event for me as I’d not been cageside for kickboxing before. Arriving early with Roberto from MMAPLUS we did our normal and found McDonald’s, this has become a bit of a tradition, the mid afternoon snack of the winning team before an event.

We were met at the event and passes were sorted, said hello to Thomas Tailford the Dapper Grappler, who was covering the show in an official capacity. After a little time the fights were underway.

The card was stacked with quality from top to bottom. The two standout fights for me were the youngsters who really went at it with shill and precision way beyond their years.

 (Mark Blundell)

The second standout was the bout between the two girls on the main card. For some reason the ladies bouts always seem to go well and show that the have as much desire to win as the guys and that there should be little to choose between the sexes. The women can compete just as well within their own weight category as the men.

 (Mark Blundell)

Photographically Enfusio Live kickboxing had challenges a little different to MMA, true there is no cage to shoot through, however a lot of my images were ‘ropy’ if you’ll excuse the pun.

 (Mark Blundell)

There is far more opportunity to get the impact punch shot but due to there being a lot of punches the fighters tend to cover up meaning that faces are not in view quite as much which for me is a 100% prerequisite of a decent image. I still got a load of great images and I was very happy with the results in the end.

full set from ENFUSION LIVE here

Cage Warriors 60 at Kentinsh Town Forum

This was my second trip to see Cage Warriors, the previous trip had been up to Liverpool so I was glad to be a bit closer to home at The Kentish Town Forum. The event was well run from the off, I introduced myself to the official Cage Warriors photographer, Dolly Clew who couldn’t have been more welcoming and politely laid down the rules and let be get settled in my allocated area.

Cage Warriors 60

I’d seen news from the Cage Warriors weigh in that several fighters had missed weight and decided to give up some of their purse to fight. This isn’t really something that I understand. To be professional in their job the fighters should make weight or go up to the next division, it wasn’t as if they had missed by a little bit either. If an on weight fighter decides to take on an overweight fighter no record of this is made and a loss is still a loss, the on weight fighter has the option to pull out, but after weeks of training unless the other guy  is well over I think that the mentality is to continue to fight.

There is no in fight penalty at all and it has been suggested to me that a points deduction may be a better way of evening up the bout.

It was a strange night of fights, I was surprised to see Leeroy Barnes come to the cage without his full corner team and go on to loose quite quickly.

Cage Warriors 60

One fight that I was really looking forward to on the Cage Warriors card was the bout between Aaron Wilkinson and Bola Omoyeme. After a delay getting into the cage due to Bola forgetting his groin guard things got underway. Bola’s opponent was on top for most of the first stanza however bola did dish out some of his own punishment.

Cage Warriors 60

As the he bell went for the finish of the first round Bola seemed to be totally gassed taking ages to get up and get to his corner. When the referee got things underway for the second there was a good deal of confusion and it looked as if the fight may be halted, however the round started and it wasn’t long before Aaron Wilkinson was on Bolas back providing some ground and pound, Marc Goddard soon stopped the bout in favor of  Wilkinson.
Bola looked in a bad way and medics were brought into the cage to ensure that he was okay. After what seemed an age Bola made it to his feet and left the cage with his trainer Ashleigh assisting him.

Cage Warriors 60

News and rumour was rife in the days following as to what had happened to Bola. He had been taken to hospital after the fight and there were a lot of concerned fans and friends on social media trying to find out what had happened. According to Safe MMA Bola had cut weight very aggressively to ensure that he was playing by the rules only to rehydrate using IV liquids. He hadnt attended the pre fight medical with the approved medic, but sought his own who had assisted and certified him as being fit to fight. This was obviously a very risky strategy that didn’t pay off and caused both the fighter, his family and friends a lot of worry.

Safe MMA statement HERE

In short the event showed me both sides of the coin, trying to achieve weight and not making weight. I’m not sure what the answer is, better conditioning leading up to the fight, fighting at the correct weight or pulling out well before to give the event a chance to find a suitable replacement. If SAFEMMA are to be used then fighters should be made to use their medics to ensure a level playing field and safety for all.

Whatever the solution it should have the fighters health at the fore.

The highlight of the evening was a four way knockout tournament for the vacant lightweight crown. Due to injury Sean Carter was elevated from his supporting role in the prelims after besting Richard Griffin earlier in the evening to being in the final vs. Stevie Ray who had beaten Jason Ball earlier on that evening.

 (Mark Blundell)

It must have been an emotional rollercoaster for Sexycurls coming of a win earlier in the night and relaxing after his earlier bout only to be offered a chance to stap in again later in the evening. In the end Stevie Ray was victorious, Carter as always was gracious in defeat and had a taste of what may well be to come for him.

 (Mark Blundell)

 

Full CAGE WARRIORS 60 gallery here

 

Jimi Manuwa Photoshoot at Lions Pride Gym

Some time ago Roberto of MMAPlus asked me if I would like to come and shoot Jimi Manuwa prior to his UFC fight in Manchester, of course I jumped at the chance. Especially so as it Jimi’s gym, Lions Pride is just down the road from me in Croydon.

Jimi Manuwa (Mark Blundell)

 

I’d met Jimi very briefly several time before and to be honest found him a little aloof and elusive, but this time he was very different welcoming both Roberto and I very warmly. He was in the middle of doing some training with the rest of the team there so we setup the lights outside and took a few test shots with the other guys there. Soon after everyone had finished we got to work outside and I managed to get some decent shots, we were pretty fast as Jimi wanted to get straight into sparring with his trainer.

Jimi Manuwa (Mark Blundell)

I have never seen someone hit so hard in my life, I was assured that this was all about technique and timing and the he was only going at it at around 60%. I have no doubt the Posterboy would quite literally knock someones head off!

Jimi Manuwa (Mark Blundell)

We finished off with a few shots in the cage and said our goodbyes. Jimi is a top fella who I have no doubt is destined for the top as was demonstrated at UFC Fight Night 30 in Manchester this weekend with his win over Ryan Jimmo.

 Full set from the evening  shooting Jimi Manuwa is HERE

Jimmy Wallhead

I was recently invited to shoot “Judo” Jimmy Wallhead for MMAPLUS up in Leicester, another of the fighters due to appear at BAMMA 13 in Birmingham on September 14th. I’d not seen Jimmy fight live before but spent a bit of time looking him up before the trip to the Rough House. Jimmy started out with Judo at the age of 7 and achieved three under 21 British Championship Titles in his early life.

Jimmy Wallhead

 

I found Jimmy to be a very personable guy, having not met him before he was exceptionally friendly and his manner and attitude allaying his somewhat scary tattooed frame. Jimmy was more than willing to pose and take time for photos after his training session and be interviewed by Roberto.

Jimmy Wallhead

It was plain to see that he was puffed out, lots of training, both his own and taking classes after taking its toll. One of the advantages that I have being not to clued up about the MMA scene is that I cant fully converse on the subject yet, therefore my conversation tends to be around things that affect us all – family and holidays. I asked what he was up to for the rest of the day, Jimmy explaining his tough schedule. I asked what he would be doing after BAMMA to which he replied ‘taking a holiday’, enquiring when the last time that he actually had some time off I recall that the answer was ‘about three and a half years ago’. Jimmy was very much looking forward to spending some time with his other half and family, away from training giving back a little of what his family have to put up with.

Jimmy Wallhead

Jimmy Wallhead

I’m sure that this is the same for all fighters especially the professionals whose only source of income is the fight game. Rather like footballers and other professional sportsmen / women the career length is short so as much as possible must be made of this time and their lives are given up to training, training and more training to remain at the peak of fitness. I can imagine that it takes a very special woman that puts up with this especially in an industry where the earnings are not stellar.

You can see more of Judo Jimmy Wallhead HERE and the full set of images HERE

 

New Wave Academy

Back to where it all started a few weekends ago. Colin Nwadike at New Wave Academy, my local MMA club invited me back to take some more fighter pictured for the website and for any events that are coming up. It was great to see some of the same faces again and to see how they had changed over the last twelve months- not much in fact. I reckon I have gone more grey and they have all become younger looking!

 (Mark Blundell)

Colin has been really helpful to me over the last year, encouraging me and always willing to say hello when we bump into each other, either at an event or just around The Palace. When I did my first shoot at New Wave Academy he said that I’d be on BAMMA soon, and lo and behold, I am indeed shooting at BAMMA in the next week.

 (Mark Blundell)

Since the first shoot my skills have somewhat increased, from taking slightly out of focus shots to now using my 5D mk3 well and actually getting the result I was after. I’ve upfraded to studio lights from simple strobes, just as well since I dropped one recently. The lighting setup was very similar to that which I had used at my first trip to New Wave Academy, three light setup – two grided lights left and right and a beauty dish high in front of the subject.

 (Mark Blundell)

Its a simple setup but really helps having an assistant and model to setup. Get the two side lights dialed in and then add the front fill, this should be fairly low powered. Dial down aperture and exposure to darken the background and we’re all set.

 (Mark Blundell)

These images are almost straight out of the camera with slight tweaking in Lightroom, but no mad Photoshop. I’m really leaning towards getting it right in camera and spending less time in front of the PC. Fewer images, but make the images that I do shoot count.

 (Mark Blundell)

 

Overall, this is one of the shoots that I am happiest with, the images have come out pretty much as I wanted and its pleasing to achieve exactly what I wanted to with the minimum of hassle back at the processing stage. There are of course things that I would change, but with every shoot I get better and learn something.

Full set of images from the New Wave Academy shoot is HERE

 

 

Cage Warriors 57

Last Saturday a trip up to Liverpool and Manchester for the MMAPLUS took place. Cage Warriors 57 and MMAExpo were on the menu. I’ve never been to Liverpool or Manchester so was pleased to see that there were no shell suits, perms and my car returned with all four wheels still attached, so none of the northern stereotypes occurred or were witnessed.

Cage Warriors is the largest MMA event I have attended in the UK so I was expecting big things from the card as well as the production and I wasn’t disappointed. Fifteen excellent bouts took place in the Echo Arena Liverpool. Highlight of the night for me was the Danny Roberts vs Henry Fadipe fight. Both fighters going for it with Roberts dishing out punishment from the off despite sustaining a gash to the head, battling on with a face covered in blood, eventually taking the win after some ferocious ground and pound with a rear naked choke.

Steve Dinsdale vs Dan Rushworth at Cage Warriors 57

 

For me it was a long day – started before 8am to drive from London, attend Expo and then onot Cage Warriors which due to the stacked card started at 6:00 and finished past 11:00pm. It was well worth it though, Paul Dollery and the crew there put on a great show, everyone was welcoming and organised, exactly how it should be, so props to the Cage Warriors organisation from start to finish.

Paul Daley vs. Lukasz Chlewicki  at Cage Warriors 57

 

In total I shot over 3300 images, the full Cage Warriors gallery is HERE