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.
Below, two brawlers right after their fight. By the grins on their face you’d think they’d both won!
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.”
Seriously, I never ever looked at it like this! As you said, I always looked at it as an ugly, brutal sport. Thanks for pointing out the great sportsmanship …
Might I say this is another awesome piece that you are awesome–keep up the good fight!
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Spreads the word
Love the shot that looks like it went from the 2nd floor down.
great read – love the theme and the photography. I enjoy these glimpses into something I know nothing of!!!
Thanks all! It always feels good to challenge a stereotype!
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there is a comment on my site for you – maybe that is the Pingback above – not sure!
The amount of respect is incredible within MMA however lately I’m not loving the increasing trash talking that’s making it (UFC) seem almost like WWF instead of a sport. I understand them wanting to talk up a fight but I wish it would get back to being more about the actual fights and not the dramatic lead up. Even the fighters admit after a bout that they respect each other and all the trash talk before the fight was just for publicity. Meh..
Interestingly enough, I don’t watch UFC! We don’t have cable (on purpose) so I don’t follow the national/international scene as closely as one would think in my position! lol But I agree, I don’t like the trash talk. I like the hype, when maybe they brag about themselves, get you really anticipating the event…but trash talk is disrespectful and rude. They all train hard and work hard.
Trash talk is minimal on the scene I’ve been exposed to here in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and whichever Dakota allows MMA. Everyone in awhile you’ll see it on FB, but even then, you’ll see a lot of people telling them to grow up. There is a lot of respect in the cage at the shows I’ve attended, which is one of the reasons I love it so much. One of my favorite female fighters got her ass handed to her Saturday night by an extremely worthy opponent (I’ll blog it soon!) and even her coach said to the other camp, “Wow, that is some skill. Congratulations on a well-fought fight!” Yeah, I have goosebumps just talking about it.
My name is Bruce “The Oddballer” Johnson I’m the one in the cage smiling with my arm around my opponent Jake Erickson he is a good friend of mine before and after the fight and I have had the up most respect for all my opponents I will never be able to fight again do to a injury out of the cage but respect is a big issue in the sport there are a lot of fighters who don’t have respect for the ones they fight I’ve been put up against some of the top fighters in the state and surrounding states wether my had is raised or not I respect every guy and girl to get in the cage and always will.
Sorry to learn you are out of the game, Bruce. You can retire knowing a lot of people in the industry loved you!
Great artical and One of the best Promotions/Promoters I’ve had the pleasure of fighting for !
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