Just two weekends ago I was in Wisconsin shooting an MMA event for Stacey and Eric Anderson, two of the owners* of Iron Works Training Center. You can see by the type of fighters they produce alone, what kind of people they are — hard-working, supportive, and respectful of any one in the sport of MMA. I thoroughly enjoy and am honored to shoot one of their shows.
“Respect” isn’t often a word you hear associated with the sport of mixed martial arts. Outsiders view the industry as violent, brutal and demeaning. Insiders sometimes see the ugly side of the politics that follow any community. But most people who love the sport, know and facilitate the number one thing you need to have to be successful in it. Respect.
You need to have respect for your coach. Your teammates. Your family as they support you in a grueling training camp. You need to have respect for the discipline needed to study, train and improve your game. And what falls in to place next is respect for your opponent. You realize that each person has to work hard, train hard and sacrifice many things in order to compete in the cage.
If you’ve never attended an MMA event, let me show you some of the things you’ll see. All of these photos were taken at Iron Works’ event, “Three River Throwdown.”
Here are team members, giving each other a hug before the rookie fighter enters the cage.
Next, you’ll see a touching photo of father and son. This fighter is exceptionally tough, and holds a winning record. One of my most notable images are of his first fight in Minnesota. I happened to be back by the locker rooms after his fight, and captured the first shots of his mother hugging him…well, gripping him…and covered in tears. It is hard not to be moved when you witness moments like these.
Another form of respect that always touches me is the respect between opposing teams. In the next picture, the coach of the defeated fighter is shaking the hand and hugging the victor. Sportsmanship at its finest. Ah, old pals. Both worked at another promotion that held events for several years in central MN. They hadn’t crossed paths for awhile. One is a fighter, the other a ref. Friendships develop at fights. And again, the two earlier opponents, shootin’ the sh*t together, smiling, laughing…no matter that they were just punching the daylights out of each other 30 minutes before. Is this sport REALLY that brutal?
*Honest words from Stacey Anderson: “Nick Ammerman (Melissa) and Troy Pellowski (Melissa) are Eric’s business partners. All 6 of us hold core values of hard work and respect. Each of us has our little specialty with Iron Works, and that is what makes us a great team. In this business I have met more genuine, honest, hardworking individuals, whether they are a fighter, an athlete training for a race, fellow gym owners, fighter managers, photographers, the list goes on. People that will drop what they are doing to help you with any project or obstacle. For that, I am always grateful. I am sincerely proud of each of our fighters and athletes.”