I have wanted to shoot Cub Swanson for the last year. Something about him was so likeable. I was thrilled when Fight Magazine called to ask me to shoot him for the cover and feature of this month’s Fight Magazine. I went to Palm Springs where he lives to meet him. Writer R.J. Clifford was there to interview Cub between shots. I was fascinated hearing about his life growing up hard in Palm Springs and all that he has overcome. He is open and honest about growing up around gang violence and drugs, and getting to where he is now inspiring youth who are in the same situations. Cub has an easy smile and a great energy about him. It was way hotter than I expected in Palm Springs and we were going to hike up the hills to shoot Cub running the cliffs. Cub walked out of his house with a pair of shorts for me. It’s those kind of gestures that you remember, and help define a person. We had a great, fun day. Even when R.J.’s truck got stuck in the sand by the wind turbines and we all had to push it out, it was somehow a fun group effort. I’m really happy for Cub!
Ok….let’s be honest. I didn’t plan on liking Nick Diaz. Fight magazine has tried to get Nick to shoot a cover for the last two years. I was told it was harder to get a photo of Nick Diaz than Sasquatch. While vacationing on Catalina, I got the call…we are good to shoot. I wake up at 5am and hustle up to San Jose, rent the car..drive the hour, all good. Set up and ready to shoot….wait for Nick to show…. Wait for Nick to show some more….Still waiting for Nick to show….now calling, texting and low jacking to track him down. Stories start drifting in about his many no shows, or shows and then walking out after deciding he didn’t like the photographer or interviewer. Five hours of waiting….my assistant is sleeping in the car, and I am getting to know Cesar Gracie and the crew really well. Cesar is cool, and so were the guys at his gym. Hallelujah Nick has been found ten minutes away and is being lured to the gym. He arrives and I shake him and say ” Aren’t you excited to be here?” total deadpan response, amid held breath by everyone at the gym. Did I not get the kid gloves memo…got it…but not running with it. I was expecting a quick in and out with Nick. I showed him on camera what I was shooting and he loved it. He doesn’t want to be portrayed as a thug any more and loved the sexy hot images. He asked if he could jump around and kick. His leg reach is epic and a challenge to get in the frame. He was leaping and flying and I saw the athlete come alive. We connected and Nick was in my lens. He stayed until I said we had the shot. I think every one in the gym was shocked. Nick smiled. I like Nick Diaz.
I spent two days visiting American Kickboxing Academy. Two days of torrential rain, in one of the biggest storms to hit California. Our day started at 5am with the pilot telling us we were in for a rocky flight. I was soaked before I arrived to pick up my rental car in San Jose. My assistant Stevie, looked at me when I arrived back to pick up all our equipment and laughed. I was shooting portraits of Cain Velasquez, Jon Fitch, Mike Swick, Josh Thomson, and Daniel Cormier for Fight! Magazine. When I met “Crazy” Bob Cook the trainer, I had to ask why “Crazy”…he is quiet and focused. He used to drive three hours to get to the gym, and crazy sounded better than determined! Over two days I watched these fighters go hard, and train together. Every one of these guys has a distinct personality, so the mix is interesting. Josh “The Punk” always has a grin and a sassy comment. Daniel Cormier was on the 2004 Olympic wrestling team, and is making the switch to MMA, from coaching wrestling. Cain is a super intense guy, he just radiates it. Mike Swick looks like he belongs on the cover of Men’s Health, and Jon Fitch is the easy-going guy. The gift the rain gave me besides wet sneakers for two days, was amazing window light, not something we usually get in sunny California. A special thanks to all the guys at AKA and to Heidi for making it all come together!Image Copyright Landry Major Photo. Do not reproduce without permission