Any mixed martial arts fan will likely tell you they admire their favorite fi ghters for more than their skills and prowess inside the cage. Fan loyalty goes beyond the sport into the realm of human connection— they relate to their favorite fi ghters based on a common thread of human struggle and life experience, fi erceness and kindness, cockiness and humbleness –everything that makes up the multi-faceted dimensions of a mixed martial arts fi ghter.
Reed Krakoff has brought to light in a stunning collection of black and white photographs, the human side of 33 of MMA’s top fi ghters. Chuck Liddell, Georges St-Pierre, Anderson Silva, BJ Penn, Wanderlei Silva, Forrest Griffi n, Roger Huerta, Matt Hughes and UFC President Dana White, among several others, are featured in an artistic hardcover display .
Krakoff, who is the current President and Executive Creative Director for Coach and veteran of over 25 years in fashion and design, studied photography at Parsons School of designs and has been a fan of mixed martial arts for several years. He shares with us his two-year creative journey to FIGHTER: The Fighters of the UFC.
Tell us about your new book and how the concept came about.
FIGHTER: The Fighter’s of the UFC is a compilation of black and white photographs and brief interviews with the UFC athletes. I have been an avid fan of the UFC for a while now and I was fi rst attracted to the sheer intensity and vibrancy of the fi ghts. With this project, I decided to take a closer look at the men who defi ne it.
How did you get so many fi ghters to make time for photo shoots and interviews?
I spent over a year and half traveling across the country to meet with these athletes and accommodate their demanding fi ghting and training schedules. It wasn’t easy, but once I had the guys on set, I think they were able to temporarily break from their fi ghting/training modes and offer a range of insight into their lives.
What was the most diffi cult thing about putting this book together?
I would have to say narrowing down which images to put in the book was the most diffi – cult and chaotic experience. Any combination of images could completely alter the feeling of each fi ghters’ vignette and made every selection, and cut, increasingly diffi cult.
What was the most rewarding aspect of creating this book?
Meeting these athletes and engaging with them on a much different level than how most of us view them. The character, candor, and humbleness that these men possess is amazing and I felt privileged to have revealed a part of that with my camera.
How did you choose the cover shot for your book?
When it came to selecting an image for the cover, it seemed impossible to choose from all of those warriors. I thought about it for some time and then it became obvious; why not feature the background that all these great fi ghters were photographed against? I shot them on a bare backdrop with natural light so they were removed from their element, away from their competitors and audiences.
Who was the most intriguing fi ghter you worked with and why?
I was really intrigued by my session with Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Being from Brazil and not speaking English, he naturally had a very quiet and reserved quality at fi rst. His demeanor was especially revealing compared to what I’ve seen in the Octagon.
Which fi ghter’s photos were you absolutely amazed by and why?
Chuck Liddell, who opens the book, has such a disarming and charismatic way about him. You can see in the photographs that his images run the gamut from perplexed to nonchalant and are increasingly complex.
There are many MMA books currently on the market, from biographies to instructional. What does this book offer the MMA fan?
I like to think that this book is not only a great compilation of athletes for the scores of diverse fans of MMA, but it also stands alone as a substantial collection of artistic photographs.
The book is available in October in time for holiday gift giving from Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble, $45. A portion of the proceeds of the book sales goes to The Yellow Ribbon Fund, to assist our injured service members and their families while they recuperate at the Walter Reed Medical Center and the National Naval Medical Center.