Nick Diaz takes the belt at Strikeforce San Diego

Got the call a few weeks ago checking my availability to head to San Diego to shoot an MMA fight. With my busy schedule these days I am rarely available for additional assignments but as luck would have it I had the weekend off so over to San Diego I headed to cover my first Strikeforce MMA fight.

The only boring part of shooting MMA fights is covering the pre fight weigh ins the day before. I always used to see fights break out at the weigh ins on TV but let me assure you, that rarely happens! (A guy can still hope though, right?)

I was happy to get a front row dead center position for the weigh ins at least.

Below, Strikeforce welterweight championship fighter Nick Diaz flexes for the ladies during weigh ins at the Crowne Plaza San Diego Hotel.

Nikon D3s, 24-70mm, 8000iso, f2.8, 1/250th, Manual

Below, when Diaz posted up near his challenger, Paul Daley, it started to look like I might finally get my first weigh in fight… until Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker stepped in the middle to maintain the peace. Dammit!

Nikon D3s, 24-70mm, 8000iso, f2.8, 1/320th, Manual

Oh btw, the weigh ins were supposed to take place outside of the arena the fight which would have been cool in the nice San Diego light but due to rainy weather it was moved inside a terrible for photos conference room at the Crowne Plaza San Diego Hotel. Sounds like a great setup right?

The fans packed like sardines in the room (below) would probably beg to differ.

Nikon D3s, 24-70mm, 8000iso, f2.8, 1/320th, Manual

Ok on to the fights.

As I have said in the blog posts from my previous two MMA fights. This sport is the hardest sport I have ever shot (and I have shot damn near every sport). Shooting through the fence brings some interesting challenges, the main one being that autofocus does not work well at all. That plus the fence, refs and TV cameramen in our way all make life difficult to get good imagery.

I won’t lie though, I kind of like the challenges this sport brings because it quickly distinguishes the pro photogs from the wannabes.

Here are some of my favorite images from the undercard fights…

Below, Strikeforce fighter Rolando Perez (white shorts) against Edgar Cardenas during an undercard bout at the Valley View Casino Center.

Nikon D3s, 70-200mm, 4000iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Manual

Here are a few more from the Rolando Perez vs Edgar Cardenas fight.

Nikon D3s, 70-200mm, 4000iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Manual

Nikon D3s, 70-200mm, 4000iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Manual

Nikon D3s, 70-200mm, 4000iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Manual

Below, Strikeforce fighter Herman Terrado (right) against A.J. Matthews during an undercard bout at the Valley View Casino Center.

Nikon D3s, 70-200mm, 4000iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Manual

Below, Strikeforce fighter Joe Duarte (left) against Saad Awad during an undercard bout at the Valley View Casino Center.

Nikon D3s, 70-200mm, 4000iso, f2.8, 1/1250th, Manual

When the fighters get close to my position cage side its always makes for fun photos to stick the camera with wide angle lens right up to the fence like in the below photo of Duarte as he lays a pounding to Awad.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 5000iso, f2.8, 1/1250th, Manual

Here are some photos from the main fights.

Below, Strikeforce lightweight world championship fighter Shina Aoki (right) is pinned to the cage by Lyle Beerbohm during a bout at the Valley View Casino Center.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 5000iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Manual

Shina Aoki (below) celebrates after winning the fight only 90 seconds into the first round.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 5000iso, f2.8, 1/500th, Manual

I ended up finding a spot where there was awesome light just prior to where the fighters entered the ring.

Below, Strikeforce lightweight world championship fighter Keith Jardine prepares to enter the ring at the Valley View Casino Center. (remember how non bloody his face is here)

Nikon D3s, 70-200mm, 5000iso, f2.8, 1/2500th, Manual

Below, Strikeforce lightweight world championship fighter Gegard Mousasi (red gloves) is taken to the mat by Keith Jardine during a bout at the Valley View Casino Center.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 5000iso, f2.8, 1/1250th, Manual

This fight ended up being the best one of the night for photos once the blood started pouring from the face of Keith Jardine, below.

Nikon D3s, 70-200mm, 5000iso, f2.8, 1/1250th, Manual

I just pray this dudes girlfriend doesn’t have a foot fetish. #ewww

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 5000iso, f2.8, 1/1250th, Manual

One of the other unique things about shooting MMA from up close is the very real potential of getting hit with flying drops of blood.

The below photo is probably my favorite image from the night, its such a gritty and telling photo about this very intense sport.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 5000iso, f2.8, 1/800th, Manual

I even got a cool DNA souvenir from Jardine on my lens…. Thanks dude!

Between rounds Jardine takes a moment to catch his breath, below.

Below, Strikeforce lightweight world championship fighter Gilbert Melendez makes his entrance into the octagon at the Valley View Casino Center.

Nikon D3s, 70-200mm, 5000iso, f2.8, 1/2000th, Manual

Strikeforce lightweight world championship fighter Tatsuya Kawajiri (left) takes a beating from Gilbert Melendez, below.

Nikon D3s, 70-200mm, 5000iso, f2.8, 1/1250th, Manual

Below, Strikeforce lightweight world championship fighter Gilbert Melendez celebrates after winning his fight at the Valley View Casino Center.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 5000iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Manual

And now we arrive at the main event of the evening.

Below, the crowd boos (and takes photos) as Paul Daley makes his way towards the octagon.

Nikon D3s, 70-200mm, 5000iso, f2.8, 1/1250th, Manual

A very happy looking Nick Diaz makes his way out to the octagon…

Nikon D3s, 70-200mm, 5000iso, f2.8, 1/1600th, Manual

Below, moments after the fight began Nick Diaz (right) taunts Paul Daley.

Nikon D3s, 70-200mm, 5000iso, f2.8, 1/1250th, Manual

The fight didn’t last very long so I only have a few photos to show.

Below, Nick Diaz (right) takes Paul Daley to the mat with a choke hold.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 5000iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Manual

And here is about where the fight comes to an end….

Nikon D3s, 70-200mm, 5000iso, f2.8, 1/1250th, Manual

…going, going…

Nikon D3s, 70-200mm, 5000iso, f2.8, 1/1250th, Manual

…gone.

Nick Diaz wins in the first round.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 5000iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Manual

Following the fight Nick Diaz celebrates (I think?) as he holds the champions belt high in the air.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 5000iso, f2.8, 1/640th, Manual

And that wraps up my third career MMA fight. Good times!

Special thanks to my editor Jennifer Hilderbrand (below) who helped get my images out to ESPN under less than desirable conditions.

I recently started a Facebook page for my photography. Click the below banner to check it out. Be sure to “like” the page so you can be kept up to date on all the events I am doing as well as my favorite photos from each event, as well as some old favorites from the last 20 years!

5 Responses to “Nick Diaz takes the belt at Strikeforce San Diego”

  1. Nice pics once again Mark!

  2. Derek says:

    Awesome shots!
    I was wondering how you are focusing through the fence? manual focus or ninja focus point toggle?

  3. Jenn says:

    what a blast and great learning experience it was. I am thankful to have tagged along :)

  4. Joe Duarte says:

    Good shots, can you email if you have anymore? thx

    Joe Duarte

  5. Frederic says:

    Mark,

    thanks for sharing your pictures about MMA and some insights of the shoot.
    I’m curious about the lens with the DNA sample, what lens is that ?

    Thanks.
    Frederic

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