2nd September 2023 // Paris, France.
I have been very lucky throughout my career to have had the opportunity to work at some of the biggest events in the world, across a variety of sports. But one I had never had the chance to cover was the UFC. All that changed last month however, when for the first time I stood cage-side at the infamous "octagon" for the first time. This opportunity was something I had been dreaming about from I first decided I wanted to pick up a camera and make this my career.
Few people know how hard I've worked or the struggles that were made to get to this point in my career. So when I was handed my pass and saw my name alongside those three iconic letters, it meant more to me than I can put into words. To most people I’m just another photographer, and to other photographers this is probably just another job. But to me, this has been well over a decade in the making, and is something I have been dreaming about for so long.
When asked about the goals I have for my career, I have always said that all I ask for is an opportunity. An opportunity to stand cage-side with the photographers I have looked up to and admired for so many years, and whose work I have taken inspiration from throughout the entirety of my career. Under the same lights, photographing the same fights, to see if I can live up to the stage, and to see if my work could even possibly stand alongside theirs.
To make the event all the more memorable my friend, Rhys McKee, was also on the card. Making his long awaited return to the UFC cage, following a world title capturing run in Cage Warriors. Seeing him prepare, and being on hand to document the work he has put in to get back to this stage in his career, is something inspiring to see on a daily basis. So to have once again been there all camp, and also be there in Paris to shoot the fight itself, at what was my first UFC, was extra special. It may not have been his night, but like every time he gets in the cage he proved that he belongs, and it is only a matter of time before he gets what he deserves, and has his hand raised in the famous black gloves.
Fellow Irishman and Cage Warriors world champion, Caolán Loughran also made his first appearance in the organisation, and one thing is for sure, he made people sit up and take notice. Despite the results not going their way it was a proud moment to be on hand to capture two local fighters, on the worlds biggest stage, put it on the line to make their dreams a reality.
It’s still hard to take in that after over a decade of work, I was given the opportunity I have always wanted. I had the chance to cover my first UFC event, in one of the most famous cities in the world. I will maybe speak more about this all down the line sometime. But for now, I would love if you could take just a few minutes to check out some of my work below. I am constantly learning, trying to improve, and bring new things to my work and the way I approach it. So I hope this is just the first opportunity for me at the UFC, because I have so much more I want to try and do.
Often times in my life when I achieve what I set out to do, I get an itch to look for something else. I’ve done what I wanted, and now it’s time for something new. But this is totally different. This is where I want to be, this is where I have worked so hard for so long to get to, and this is what I truly love to do. I just hope my work stands up to the stage, and is worthy of the opportunity I was given. I also hope I did justice to the fighters who make this sport what it is, who without I couldn’t do what I do.
To all those who helped along the way to make this possible, and I do hope you know who you are, I cannot thank you enough. This is a moment in my life I will never forget.
If you’ve made it this far and read all that, then thank you, and if you still have some time, I would love if you could check out a collection of my work from the event below. It would really mean a lot to me, and I hope I earned my place.
Thank you, James.
UFC Paris // © JAMES MCCANN
Cyril Gane def. Serghei Spivac // TKO (3:44 Round 2)
Manon Fiorot def. Rose Namajunas // Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
Benoît Saint-Denis def. Thiago Moises // TKO (4:44 Round 2)
Volkan Oezdemir def. Bogdan Guskov // Submission - RNC (3:46 Round 1)
William Gomis def. Yanis Ghemmouri // TKO (2:20 Round 3)
Morgan Charriere def. Manolo Zecchini // TKO (3:51 Round 1)
Taylor Laupilus def. Caolán Loughran // Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Ange Loosa def. Rhys McKee // Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
Nora Cornolle def. Joselyne Edwards // Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Farid Basharat def. Kleydson Rodrigues / Submission - Arm Triangle (4:15 Round 1)
Jacqueline Cavalcanti def. Zarah Fairn // Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Photos captured using Nikon equipment.