It's been something I harboured mixed feelings about for quite some time; the MMA picture that I'm most well known for is one of a fighter's utter defeat - yet in many ways it 'put me on the map', so to speak, and opened quite a few doors for me. I'd always wanted to thank Joe Stevenson... but how?
(more after the jump)
Almost two years down the line from that night in Newcastle, I found the time to speak to Joe again. Sure, I'd photographed him in action at both UFC 86 and 95 but, owing to his schedule, I never got around to talking with him at either of those events.
Rewind to a few weeks ago and I'm sitting in the bar of the Crowne Plaza hotel, shooting the breeze with my friends and journalists Oliver Copp, Dave Meltzer and french MMA reporter Souad Soulimani when I see Joe walk into the bar with good friend Tracy Lee. I knew Joe was in town as he (along with Greg Jackson) would be cornering Aaron Riley on the night of the fights.
The cool thing with Joe - and many other MMA fighters - is that they remember people. Joe is no exception. We struck up a conversation as if the pre-fight presser for '80 had only happened the other day. We joked around a bit and he recalled that, when I asked him to pose for his portrait shot at the presser, he'd said to me "Do you want Magnum, or Blue Steel??" (if you've never seen Zoolander, shame on you!)
I saw this moment as an ideal (yet awkward) time to thank him for the infamous shot. Turns out I had nothing to worry about.
What Joe said to me was "You know, that moment, it's kind of a bad memory but it's a memory all the same - a bit like a messy divorce. I'm glad that something positive came out of it though"
I asked him what was going through his mind at the time
"Well I was obviously cut quite bad and I was wondering to myself just how long I was gonna last in there. When [Penn] got that choke locked in I knew there'd be no shame in tapping, but it still hurt"
I thanked Joe and Tracy Lee stepped in to take a shot of me with him using my own camera gear.
A short while later whilst I was getting some drinks at the bar, I overheard Joe asking some of the UFC's brass if there were any spare tickets going as he needed to get a pair for some buddies. They told Joe that all requests had to go through the UFC's PR folk and that he could do that in the morning.
In one of those rare moment of serendipity, I called Joe aside and told him that I had two comp tickets that I didn't need - they'd been given to me earlier that day by one of the UFC's UK staff. I promised Joe I'd get the tickets up to his room the next morning and I was good to my word.
So there it was - a surreal moment where I not only got to thank Joe Stevenson for helping to make my MMA photography infamous, but I also managed (in a small way) to repay the favour.