Brent Todd – MMARecap’s Long Goodbye

Written by MMARecap Staff on . Posted in Media

It is a funny thing, saying goodbye to someone or to something. There is part of you that is happy it is over, part of you that is sad that it is ending, and then another part that still wants to try to keep it for the fear of what lies next. It is those later two reasons, that it has taken me nearly three weeks to pen this and actually publish it. The what if’s in life can make a person go crazy, but so can peddling in place.

I started this sport of as a fan of the sport; debating who was best at the time and sitting on pins and needles waiting for the next show. Back then we were lucky if we had double digit UFC shows in a year; now we have thirty plus. The sport was growing, and I wanted to become part of the media that covered it. So I jumped in feet first, not knowing what I was doing. In the five plus years of being a journalist I have seen some of the best compete, sometimes just feet away from me at cageside.

For the longest time I was excited by the prospect of each show. It didn’t matter if it was a big UFC event or a small local amateur show held in front of two hundred people. I was amazed by the talent, skill and heart that was on display at each show. Over the years I changed. The excitement of each show started to fade, even when sitting close enough to the action to get bled on. I cannot sit back and let the reason I got into the sport disappear while I just chug on writing word after word. Realizing what was happening to my view of mixed martial arts, a decision had to be made and thus, I need to walk away from writing about it.

I want to thank all of the former writers and staff members at MMARecap. Adam Dicker was the first person to come on board and help write, and quickly transitioned it to a judging position. Andrew Gladstone is another write whom the site wouldn’t be where it is without him. He went on to write for the likes of Sherdog and MMAWeekly. Big thanks to Mike Finch who has consistently done a fantastic job with his interviews, sometimes on minutes notice with little time to prepare.

My co-host of RecapRadio over the course of nearly two years, John Petit is a fantastic guy who is one of the most knowledgable in the sport. If you aren’t following him on twitter, do it now @scream13. His work can now be found at fighters.com and other Rebellion Media sites.

Other people who have sacrificed time, energy, and in some cases money, to help out that I need to thank include Matt Clarmont, Karly Bernard, Matt Faler, Kyle Conroy, Kevin Tate, Greggy Harrison, Andrew Cyders, Petey Ridings, Brandon Ruiz and TJ Chmielewski.

I need to thank Joey Hill for all the time he spent trying to help build MMARecap to be the best site in the Chicago area. Without his help, it likely would have died a slow and horrible death. While things did not work out between us as business partners, he is a big reason for where MMARecap was able to go. Make sure you check out his photos at Royal Divide.

I want to thank other members of the media, who not only helped me at times, but pushed me to be better at my job. Hector Quintero, Stan Balazia, Matthew C. Scaro, both Tony’s from Chi-Town MMAniacs, Brian Hemminger, Steve Muehlhausen, Tom Barnes, Ray Flores, Ed Waltz and so many others over the years.

I want to thank every promoter who let me into their show to cover it. Dan Lardy, Mike Davis, Nilo Soto, Brian Angelo, Jeff and Joe Albin, Mark Slater, Paul and Danielle Vale, the entire team behind Ruckus, and the countless other shows I have attended over the years. Additionally the teams behind the scenes who help at each of these events are just as important. Clay Goodman, Rob Madrigal, Dr. Hertz, and all the other refs, judges, doctors, and EMTs I have met throughout the years.

The fighters will always have a special place for what they put themselves through to not only test their physical limitations, but also to entertain the fans. It has been an honor seeing the likes of veterans like Jeff Curran, Jens Pulver, Chase Beebe, and others fight while at the same time watching careers explode from fighters like Carson Beebe, Dustin Neace and Will Brooks. There are fighters on the cusp of making it to a big show, and I cannot wait to be able to say that I was able to see nearly all of their early fights.

Finally, I want to thank all of the fans of the sport, both the good and the bad. Negative comments are more frequent now, but the intelligent comments are worth sifting through all the stupid ones. Without the fans, there wouldn’t be a need for me to do what I do.

I know I probably forget a name or two on here, so please know that if you are a fighter, a promoter, a brand, or just a fan of the sport and interacted with either the website or myself, I thank you.

What is next for me, I am not certain. I know I will still enjoy the sport I love, I just won’t be writing about it in the same capacity anymore. Many have said that I can only stay away for a little while and that this is just going to be a break. They could be right, I am not sure. I will be leaving this website up along with our facebook, twitter, and youtube for historical purposes. Maybe one day I will become that fan again and want to write about it, but who knows. With that I wish everyone the best in each of their endeavors and once again, thank you.

The Man Behind The Lens – Tom Barnes

Written by MMARecap Staff on . Posted in Media

tom-barnesSitting cage-side at almost any boxing or MMA event in the Chicagoland area you are bound to see one person; Tom Barnes. He’s the hired photographer who goes about his business quietly and produces some of the most memorable photos in the sport. We see his pictures fly across facebook, being shared and tagged and commented on, all with a little gold watermark of his company, Tomba Images somewhere on the picture.

It is rare to see Barnes get miffed even in the slightest, but it is easy to see him light up when he reminisces about some of the pictures he has taken. He also has a sense of when a fight is going to be larger than life, even if it is at a smaller stage, and you can see him go into his zone.

They say that it doesn’t matter what the equipment is, you have to have an artistic eye in order to truly capture the best moments. Sure the top of the line camera and lens will help, but like the fighter who has been inside the cage for twenty some odd fights, there isn’t much that Barnes isn’t aware of.

His story for shooting combat sports starts over a decade ago, but Barnes has been shooting photography for much longer. He was always a freelance photographer, shooting the odd job here, the wedding there, but one day he got tired of shooting people. He just didn’t see people with an artistic eye anymore.

So he moved on and decided to focus on architectural photography. Buildings are things of beauty, but given the right framing, angle, and focus, they shine. Barnes grew up on the west side of Chicago, and decided to shoot both the exterior and the interiors of buildings.

One day, he entered the Garfield Park Fieldhouse, a place he had been before. He went from room to room, shooting his subject with both large and medium format film. He thought he knew the building pretty well until he found a room he had never been in before. Inside the windows were all covered up, there was an American flag hung up, and also a boxing ring. The ring fascinated Barnes so much so that he went back the next day. And the next. And the next.

He struck up a conversation with George Hernandez, one of the top boxing trainers in the Chicagoland area. That lead to Barnes going to other boxing gyms such as the old Windy City Gym and Jab Gym. That lead to him shooting at the Golden Gloves, and back to shooting people again.

The transition from boxing to MMA was an easy one as there has been a lot of crossover between the sports. And while there are technical issues to shooting a boxing match or a cage fight, it is all the same for Barnes who enjoys them both.

What was harder for him was switching from film to digital. The speed of the sports world and the now of today forced him to change. But back in the early days, he was a film guy through and through. He developed his own film, worked in the traditional dark room, and printed all of his own stuff be it color or black and white. He wanted nothing to do with digital photography.

His wife Deb, whom at the time wasn’t his wife, was a photographer as well. Though she was of the digital variety instead of film. Barnes stated that he tried to shoot boxing with traditional film but it was kind of tough. He tried out her camera and then quickly upgraded to have better digital equipment.

Equipment it seems is the crux of any photographer. It seems like every week there is a new piece of equipment that can help. But it isn’t cheap. In the early goings, Barnes recalls that cost and how there isn’t an easy answer for how to purchase $30,000 worth of equipment. And ironically enough, that equipment is needed for the smaller shows, the ones in front of hundreds, not thousands of people. These shows tend to be poorly lit and require the power of the equipment. The larger shows are televised and have a lot of light, making it much easier to shoot.

And while he has had some thoughts of moving on from combat sports, he has never lost his passion or been tired of the shooting the sport. His interests are expanding, wanting to shoot other action sports such as watersports, but likely he won’t move on completely.

Why would he? He has so many memorable moments. From shooting any of the UFC, Strikeforce or Bellator events that he has been to, to the local events, there is always something for him to shoot. Being able to turn around and see the thousands of fans at these events, all cheering and screaming, it excites him.

When you ask him what his most memorable shoots were in the industry, two come to mind. The first deals in the little known studio side of the sport. These photos are rarely seen with his logo on it as they are commissioned pieces that then sometimes get enhanced. It could be a weigh-in or a promo piece, but these are the candid shots of the fighters.

felice-rosieHis favorite of these was seeing a concept from inception to completion. Felice Herrig, a fan favorite and one of the voices of women’s MMA, was the subject. The idea seemed simple at the time, shoot her as the famous Rosie the Riveter. The night before he was running around, buying clothes and trying to figure out how to make a bandana. The entire day was spent shooting to get one shot, but it quickly became famous.

Of course if you ask him what event was most memorable to him, he lights up like a kid waking up at Christmas to find a room full of presents. The event was Manny Pacquiao taking on David Diaz in Las Vegas in 2008. That night as he says, is burned into his head.

For more information on Tom Barnes, find him on Facebook under Tomba Images Photography or at http://www.tomba-images.com/

Steve Muehlhausen – I Never Thought I Would Be An MMA Journalist

Written by MMARecap Staff on . Posted in Media

Fight Club Chicago Logo

Fight Club Chicago Logo

A big question that people ask others when they are interested in another person’s profession is “How did you get into that line of work?” For many, it was a passion growing up that lead to going to school to eventually get a job in the field. Others it was due more to a life change that forced their hand. Yet some have a more interesting tale such as Steve Muehlhausen of Fight Club Chicago.

For Muehlhausen, his passion was television and sports. He wanted to be a sports caster on a local tv station with hopes of one day being on ESPN’s Sports Center. After graduating from high school he pursued that dream by attending Columbia College in Chicago. But then two things happened that changed his life forever.

The first was that he took an elective course about radio law. Muehlhausen immediately fell in love with radio. He looked to switch his major and realized it wasn’t anything major needing just to add a couple more classes before he would graduate. The second, was when life and family hit him hard. He had to take time away from school, and wasn’t able to go back.

With the time away from school, but a new found passion in radio, Muehlhausen searched for other options. He started attending school at the Illinois Center for Broadcasting to learn everything he could about radio. Of course part of the curriculum would include having a radio show and with his background in sports, he thought he would be doing a sports show. Muehlhausen recalls, “I was asked if I wanted to do a show. They said they wanted to do a weekly show about the UFC and asked me. I immediately said let’s do it and felt confident I could fill two hours a week talking about the sport. It was originally harder to fill that time than I thought it would be. I hit the road and started to grind going to local shows. I brought on members of the media at first as guests, and then a sponsor company, and finally a fighter.”

The hard work paid off. The show went from one day a week to two days a week to getting a full five day a week schedule while still under the command of the Illinois Center for Broadcasting. The hard work and the grinding started to pay off for Muehlhausen as his determination lead him to an interview with Jon Jones before his fight with Vladimir Matyushenko at UFC on VS 2.

“I had a friend at the time who worked at Vs and he asked if I wanted to interview Jones. So I went out to San Diego and at the time you knew who Jones was and what he was going to be, but he wasn’t there yet. I remember doing the interview and during the interview I cracked a joke about him moving up to heavyweight. Jones looked at me awkward like I was calling him fat and I explained that with his age, size, and frame, would he be forced to move up. Jones then retorted with “What are you trying to say Steve?” and I remember thinking that he was upset and I had angered him. Then he bust out and said he was joking with me. That was a breakthrough moment. We sent that interview to NBC (owners of Vs) and they loved it. After that I knew I was getting somewhere. That interview put me on the map.”

That success early on lead to several other achievements for Muehlhausen. Over the next two years he would go on to write for MMASucka before writing for Bleacher Report. His interviews on his radio show Fight Club Chicago would be the source material for several articles not just for his own writings, but other journalists as well.

And it seemed like everything was going right for him in 2012. He got engaged to his fiancé and bought a house for them to start a life together in. Then the bottom dropped out in September.

“We were scheduled to meet with the American Cancer Society and I got to the building and I was told the meeting was cancelled, but they wanted to talk to me. They told me they were laying me off and folding the company. The show which was broadcast on SportsTownChicago.com was no longer affiliated with the Illinois Center for Broadcasting, and finically speaking they said they were putting more money in than they were getting out. I did the show for another week before it went off the air.”

Muehlhausen continued to write for Bleacher Report and continued to interview fighters for his articles, but something was missing for him and it almost made him quit the business. After all, he had a good run in the nearly three years. Interviewing fighters from across all shows from amateur to the UFC and he got to travel to fights and talk to Dana White. He had accomplished a lot in a short period of time.

What turned him around was actually the people that he had relied on for content asking him when he was coming back. Media members, fighters, managers all asked him when the show was coming back. And while he knew he couldn’t bring it back at it’s old stomping ground, the seed was planted that he could continue the show.

He fielded some offers from local radio stations about possibly putting the show on the airways, but they just weren’t a good fit. Other media outlets reached out to carry the show, but still, something was missing from it all. So he then opted to run the show on his own and it officially relaunched in December 2012. Since relaunching, the show airs not only on Blog Talk Radio but also on The Well Versed which features a variety of shows ranging from music to sports and more.

In looking back at his career, one thing has stayed consistent for Muehlhausen. His ability to grind and do the work. To him, it is part of what makes the people that he looks up to in the business successful.

“Dana White is my number one inspiration. I see how hard he works. Vince McMahon while not in the same business, had a similar road. They both work extremely hard. They both are up like 20 hours a day. I can always work harder. Duane Finley over at Bleacher Report is another person who works hard and grinds. I want to get to that level. I know I am not at that level. You really need to check out his stuff.”

Of course even with everything seemingly going smooth at this point, there is one aspect Muehlhausen is not looking forward to again. After not traveling since May of 2011, he will be hitting the road and the airwaves to cover events. But there is one good part to all the travel according to Muehlhausen, “The best part is coming home.”

Follow Steve Muehlhausen on twitter @fightclubchi and listen to his radio show at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/the-fight-club-chicago