Okay… So the Elite XC wasn’t everything that I hoped it would be..
And tell you the truth, it really had nothing to do with Elite XC
Thursday morning, I got on a plane to Ft Lauderdale from Albuquerque,
NM.. Luckily for me, both Cole and Micah Miller were on my same flight.
So for once, I wasn’t stuffed in between the smelly guy and the old
lady that wants to show me pictures of her grandkids and fix me up with
her 22 year old grandson who is currently living at home, working at
McDonalds with hopes to go to trade school and has aspirations to drive
trucks for a living. Not that I find anything wrong with the
profession, just not wanting to be on another episode of Blind Date..
But thats a story for later..
We’re on southwest, so there’s always a layover on the way to Ft Lauderdale. Our plane was held, we were fortunate enough to make the connecting flight in Orlando. We grabbed our bags and Cole’s friend picked us up at the airport and whisked us away to Boca Raton where the two live. It was 9:30. Whole foods closed at 10 so I was incessantly asking, can we go?? It was every person for themselves as soon as we hit the store, and then we were comparing purchases at the front as Micah checked out a fully loaded grocery cart.
I happily munched on my selections (and overate, tell you the truth) in their living room. It wasn’t long though before I was requesting a ride to my hotel in Miami. Before Cole would take me, I was forced into playing a round of Guitar Hero. I am a new fan of this game after Doug Marshall taught me to play earlier in the week during WEC. I scored a cool 89% (not bad considering it was my 3rd time playing the game) and then we were making the hour trek down to the Holiday Inn located across the street from the Bank United Center on the U of M campus.
It was about Midnight by this time. The hotel wasn’t the greatest, but from what I gathered was DIRECTLY across the street from the venue. I dragged my bags up to the room and found myself working until 5:30am.
I figured I would get up at 9am to get more work done, but 7am came, and I couldn’t sleep. Back to my computer for about 4 more hours. I then wandered around the hotel and found the entire Elite XC staff in the restaurant finishing a meeting. No fighters were anywhere to be seen… What the hell? Usually I can find tons of them cutting weight. Good thing they didn’t need to. The facilites were a room with 2 pieces of equipment, and no sauna. I did find Ricco Rodriguez there in an intense phone conversation, so I quickly left. I headed back to my room and worked some more, all the while watching out my window to the courtyard where they were setting up for the weigh ins.
I was back at the restaurant at 4. This was more like it! There were fighters everywhere I looked. Between the fighters on the card and the ones in their corners, the restaurant was teeming with them. I walked outside and found many already seated, so I worked my way through the crowd to get photos of the teams as they patiently waited for the weigh ins to start. I was introduced to Sean Faris, who is the lead in the new mma movie coming out next month, Never Back Down. He’s a huge Anderson Silva fan so I snapped a photo of the two. Tank was sitting quietly with his lady friend so I snapped a photo of them as well. I decided to cruise around the hotel and happened to be in the lobby as Kimbo and his posse rolled in. Black shirts, gleaming teeth, sunglasses and fist pendants; all except Bas who was wearing a white shirt. Bas was being the character that he always is and I got some funny photos to prove it. I managed to coordinate the whole crew into a big group photo; a task I’m lucky I achieved early on.
Afterall the medicals were done (and an apology from Gary Shaw that the Florida Commission had their way of doing things) the main event stepped on the scale at about 6 pm. Kyle Noke weighed in at 186.5. They stated that he had 2 hours to make 185. What?? No pound allowance in the state of Florida? Mikey Gomez also had to come back to be reweighed, but ultimately, everyone eventually made weight.
Time to eat! I hadn’t eaten all day, something I unconsciously do on weigh in days, maybe as a sympathy thing to the fighters? I raced up to the room to load the weigh in pics online, and then down to the pizza place up the street to meet up with Kyle Noke and his crew. I ordered some spaghetti and shoveled it down because they were all but done eating by the time I got there..
I was picked up at 11pm by my photographer trainee. I was training two girls to shoot for Napkinnights Miami that night at Mansion. Coincidentally, thats where all the Elite XC staff were going to party as well! Mickey Avalon was supposed to perform and I was looking forward to that. A guy grabbed me a number of times over the course of the night; he even put his hand into the back of my pants to pull me backward by the waistband! I finally was so sick of it that I pushed him and told him to stop touching me. He didn’t like that and pushed me back and grabbed me, only to be surrounded by 5 guys from Elite XC telling him to back off. I hung out a bit longer- hoping to see Mickey come on, but I was over it by 2am and headed back to the hotel.
I slept in! I woke up at 9am after going to bed about 3. I spent most of the day in the hotel working except for walking up the street to the jewish deli where I had a bowl of matzah ball soup, and sweet potato fries. I had plenty of time to get things done as the doors to the event didn’t open until 7, and the first fight at 7:30.
When I checked in at the arena, I received my media badge that stated I was seated in an overhead position. I was shocked as there wasn’t that much media there, and I was dead set on getting cage side photos of the Tank and Kimbo fight. I ran cageside to talk to Johnny from Elite XC, and it was out of his hands. They had NO media positions cageside, and somehow managed to throw a couple together last minute for Sherdog and Full Contact Fighter. His hands were in the air, and I was devastated. Apparently the Florida Commission didn’t think much of media.
I grabbed a seat to talk to Jenn and Akosa from Proelite, and Jerry Milani from the IFL. They were seated on the first tier of seats with their laptops and many other media outlets. I explained my situation, and they started making calls. I went and sat down next to the security
guard in the inner circle around the cage and shot the Borgameo/Berhard fight there.
I decided to grab a seat behind Dave Mandel who was cageside (with his permission of course) and was seated behind him for part of the Bradley/Gomez fight and the Herman/Rinaldi fight. We were next to one of the corners seats.
To give you an idea, shooting cage side is difficult. You have to aim through the holes in the fence and try focus on a moving target. Be another 3-5 feet back (like I was) and the holes appear smaller, and are more difficult to focus through. 10 feet back, and this feat is next to impossible.
We shot the first round like this, before Johnny told Dave he had to move to his original seat, and I had to leave the area. I decided to see how difficult it was to move from the floor to the overhead position in hopes that it was easy enough so I could get all the shots I wanted. A walk across the entire arena floor, an elevator up, and then a walk around the perimeter of the arena and I was barely catching the end of the 2nd round of the fight. There were some type of cables that were hanging down on my side of the cage that show up in many of the pics. And I could see that there was no way I could shoot the Kimbo entrance, and still make it up to the overhead position in time for the fight. And one last thing- I was the only photographer up there.
I spent the next few fights trying to find a solution, shooting photos from wherever I could. I was in touch with my friend Tjay from Iconsport, and he and Patrick were trying to help me remotely. I was in tears by then. Every Elite XC employee I knew was trying their hardest to help me out, including Danny from BZApr, to the point that Gary Shaw and Skala finally pulled me cageside and put me next to the corner again. I texted everyone thank you for all their help, shot one round of the Feijao vs Doyle fight, and the Rogers vs Thompson fight, and then the Florida Commission was
next to me telling me to leave. I said “But I was just placed here by showtime!” and their response? “If you don’t leave right now, we’ll have you thrown in jail.”
Wow. Torn, I packed up my gear and plopped myself down by Turi. He suggested I shoot sitting next to him (please read 3 paragraphs up) and I knew that wasn’t very feasible. So I went over to Dave Mandel’s new spot cageside, and asked him if I could sit behind him again. He was okay with it (thanks so much, Dave!) and thats where I spent the rest of the fight. There was a microphone in the way, and many shots I caught had Dave in them, but it was better than I had hoped for all evening, so I made do.
Here are the pics I got as I was running around the entire show…
After the fights, I went back to the hotel to munch down on the buffet that was set up. I caught Tank and his short bus out front of the hotel. I stuffed my face in the restaurant, ran upstairs and changed, and headed into south beach with Nissen Osterneck to go to Kimbo’s Afterparty at Opium Gardens. I quickly found Kimbo’s group and grabbed a photo of a couple of them, but most were disinterested in my camera. I located all the Proelite kids and spent the rest of the evening withthem. As far as fight afterparties go,it was pretty uneventful.
Looking back on the evening, and the fact that the Tank and Kimbo fight was only :43 seconds long, all the time I spent during the undercard trying to find a place to shoot was worth it because I had a pretty good place to be for the main card. I didn’t get the best photos that I have ever gotten, so I apologize for that to the combatlifestyle.com viewers. But I did try my hardest; I even cried because I didn’t think I would be able to do it. I also want to thank everyone at ELITE XC who helped me out: Tjay, Patrick, Johnny, Larissa, Turi, Jenn, Akosa, Mayhem, Erik, Danny, Marilyn, Monica, Skala, Gary, Rich, Jeremy, Doug, and anyone else I am forgetting. Thanks also to Dave Mandel for letting me shoot over his shoulder.. One last thanks goes out to everyone who visits combatlifestyle.com and supports it. Thank you thank you thank you!!