by Angy Ellis
Where did it start? At the very start a competition was promoted to determine the most effective martial art of them all – putting wrestlers against kick boxers, Ju-jitsu fighters against boxers etc… Fighters then began to cross train and morph into well-rounded, balanced fighters that could fight standing or on the floor. This blend of fighting styles and skills became known as Mixed Martial Arts (MMA).
Today it is a huge business and I am part of the Made4TheCage team based in Sunderland. I train with them, party with them and very excited that I get to photograph Fight Nights at Rainton Meadows Arena for them.
The fighters are an amazing mixed bag of athletes, I use athletes because that is what they are when you realise how many disciplines they train in. Some are young, others older. Some are rich, others underprivileged. Each comes with a distinct body size, body type and ethnicity. Each possesses a different style, a different political view and reason for fighting. I personally know local fighters that are bankers, farmers, teachers, soldiers, lawyers, policemen – and then there’s the fighters who also train others for a living, owning their own gyms… but they all have something in common – they all want to fight.
I would say that the biggest reason any of the men and women that I have spoken to fight is because they are extremely competitive, it’s the ultimate form of competition between two individuals. The sport is safe, we have doctors’ medics and very strict rules to follow. Fighters’ safety is paramount.
I’m hooked. I watch or read about it daily more than I do photography – old fights, future fights, anything. The highlights of my year are the Made4TheCage local Fight Nights. On fight nights there’s nothing that compares to the excitement of the crowd, the anticipation and determination of the fighters and the fans. I get to sit cage side, the best seat in the house although sometimes I’m found up a ladder looking into the cage with my camera but I do prefer to be level with the canvas.
The fighters are some of the kindest, friendliest people I’ve ever met. I know it may sound odd to those people that haven’t had the opportunity to meet some of these men and woman and only hear of them in a cage hitting each other, but they are down to earth and gracious people. They are not the ‘hooligans’ or ‘thugs’ that some people in the general public expect them to be. People think of a ‘cage’ and that relates to animals – but the cage is there for the fighters safety – they throw each other about so we can’t have them falling out of a ‘ring’ like in boxing. The fighters would prefer you to say MMA not Cage Fighting.
It’s difficult to photograph, the lighting is always different and changes constantly throughout the night with colours and spotlights etc. I use my Nikon D610 as I don’t want to take and risk dropping my D810. Usually my 24-70 lens for ease. I’ve still a lot to learn to get it right but in time I know I will, at the same time enjoying the ‘on the job training’
My life is pretty exciting.
This article is also in Members Galleries 2016, together with a gallery of 26 more images here