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!
I met Cain when Fight Magazine sent me to San Jose to shoot the incredible roster of guys training at AKA with Crazy Bob Cook. Cain was training and he was going hard. My first impression was this guy is Tough. In a room full of the top MMA fighters training, to be singled out as such is a statement in itself. Cain wasn’t laughing or smiling he was hard, tough and serious. Any one sparring with him was going to get his full force- no holding back served up. The first day I was at AKA, Cain sent a message that he didn’t want to shoot, but he would the next day. Day two I was wondering if it was going to happen, he didn’t look at me or acknowledge I was there. When he was done he gave me ten minutes. We did the set up shots I needed to deliver and then I asked him to stand in front of the rainy window light. Somehow the soft light accentuated how tough he is and that was the magic moment. I knew not to try to get him to smile, it wasn’t in him. I was getting the essence of who Cain is, pure, tough, strong and determined. My favorite image from this moment was used as the cover for Fight Magazine celebrating Cain as Fighter of The Year. I was at the UFC fight when he defeated Lesnar. I knew he was going to bring it and loved that he advanced when others would have been tentative. I was on my feet yelling and cheering until my arms were tired from clapping. I have never seen an arena light up like that. After the fights when we were walking to our cars I was happy for all the Latino’s who were so proud to have the first Latino Heavyweight in history. I said in Spanish…I am as happy as you are Cain won today!
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 first met the Ranger Up guys at Camp Pendleton for a shoot for Fight Magazine a few months ago. What happens when you drop a hippie chick into a military base? I realize again why I love my job so much….. I met some incredible people. Nick, Tom and Tim are amazing guys. They make me laugh, get things done and have an amazing outlook. We got to hang out in Los Angeles again when I shot Tim Kennedy before his Strikeforce fight. I love these guys. It is another lesson in, if you keep your heart and mind open, we see how much alike we all are. My son Cash swiped my Ranger Up T-shirt, and paid them the highest compliment. Wow, this is soft and really great quality….I’m wearing this! www.rangerup.com check it out!
How much fun did I have shooting Tim? A lot…. but I kind of knew that going in. I first met Tim at Camp Pendleton a few months ago on a shoot for Fight Magazine for training the troops. Tim is game for anything, and I love that. We shot for Fight Magazine at Krav Maga gym in Los Angeles. Tim is such a happy guy it was hard to make him look mean. People heard him yelling all over the gym while we were shooting. I shot Tim backstage right before his fight. He was getting his hands wrapped and marked and was super cool and happy. I get the impression after serving, MMA is a vacation. He is that chill. Tim gave me his walk out T-shirt which I was wearing when he won his fight easily in the first round. You have to be happy for some one this nice. Big things will come for Tim. Thanks to Nick and Leo for making it all happen!
The new campaign I shot for PETA with Jake Shields is out. I love the concept. I was really surprised when I shot Jake and he told me he was a vegetarian and had been all his life. You really don’t think of some one like a fighter being a veg head. It dispels some erroneous ideas about nutrition and energy which I think is great. I love when people are not what you would think from the outside. Jake gets props from me for standing up and being proud. Congrats on the big win too Jake!
I first saw Demian last year training at Xtreme Couture. I took a few images of him training, which became favorites. He has a quiet intensity that is beautiful. I caught up with him training for his next fight at Wanderlei’s new gym in Las Vegas. The first thing you see when you enter the gym is a big play structure for kids. Not what you would expect in a top MMA training gym, but don’t be fooled this is the hardest training I have ever seen. Trainer Rafael Alejarra’s snorkel training in 112 degree Vegas heat was brutal. Demian tore it up, in a brutal circuit training. Demian is incredibly tough, but so kind and nice at the same time. I love the Brazilian fighters, they have such great heart and spirits. Image Copyright Landry Major Photo. Do not reproduce without permission.
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