Sports Photog & UFC Lensman Brandon Magnus
Today we present a photo essay and interview with one of the UFC’s most prolific photographers, Brandon Magnus.
Having captured some of MMA’s most astonishing and fascinating images, Brandon talks to us today about his career and shares some of his favorite photos of fighters and fights.
ABOVE: LAS VEGAS, NV – JULY 12: An overhead view of the Octagon as Stephen Thompson reacts to his victory over Jake Ellenberger in their welterweight bout during the Ultimate Fighter Finale inside MGM Grand Garden Arena on July 12, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Lucky Connections & TUF 18
MTG: How did you get into photography? What was your break into doing work for the UFC?
MAGNUS: I’ve always enjoyed taking pictures for as long as I could remember. I realized I wanted to pursue a career in photography. I didn’t know how I was going to do this but I knew it was what I wanted to do.
I ended up getting in contact with a sports photographer that I was a big fan of who lived in San Diego. His name is Donald Miralle, and he told me that if I moved down to San Diego he wouldn’t be able to pay me much, but he would teach me everything that he knew.
I spent 2-1/2 years in San Diego. I traveled with Don all over, covering editorial and commercial shoots, Charger games, golf tournaments, the Ironman, and many other events. He took me under his wing and helped put me onto the path for success, and everyday I thank him for that.
Eventually Don was asked to do a photo shoot for the UFC for TUF season 18. We went out to Vegas and did the shoot, and after that I always kept in touch with the head photographer of the UFC, Josh Hedges. I was always a huge fan of the sport and wanted to cover it, so I would email him every now and then seeing if there were any opportunities to cover an event. I never had a chance to cover an event, but I continued to work hard in San Diego and built my portfolio. Then about a year later, I got a call from the UFC asking if I was interested in a position with them. Didn’t even think twice – took the offer and packed up my truck again and this time, I moved to Las Vegas.
Shooting The Fighters
MTG: Who are your favorite fighters to photograph?
MAGNUS: For me, the most memorable fighters that I had the opportunity to shoot were Ronda Rousey and Holly Holm leading up to 193; Cody Garbrandt during the week before he fought Thomas Almeida, then again when he fought Dominic Cruz; Luke Rockhold before 194 and 199; and of course, Conor in a majority of his events.
My favorite shoots are the ones with the TUF fighters. I usually shoot their portraits and then the fights while they live in the house for six weeks straight. It’s a lot more intimate. I’m there documenting their journey to get into the UFC. It’s a lot more raw and you definitely feel the highs and lows with these fighters, especially once you get to know them.
MTG: You were regularly doing photos for McGregor leading up to his fight with Mayweather. How would you describe the events that led up to the fight? What kind of schedule would you end up keeping in those weeks up to the fight?
MAGNUS: Conor is such a unique character – you just never knew what to expect when he walked into the room. With his schedule it was always unpredictable, I just had to be prepared and ready for when I got the text that he was heading in. Sometimes I would have his schedule for the week, but the workout would change as soon as he got to the gym.
And this was on top of all my other work: I was shooting the new season of TUF as well as Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, and then had all of my editing and photo requests that I have to do in the office during the day. So there was never a dull moment.
You could see in his camp that he has surrounded himself with a great team and people that he has his complete trust in. Conor just oozes confidence in everything he does, so you just get the same feeling when you’re around him. Sometimes during the camp, I would stop shooting and just watch him train and take it all in.
MTG: Any advice for aspiring photographers?
Always keep grinding hard and shooting as much as you can. Have your camera with you wherever you go, it should be an extension of your hand. Personal projects are always good to work on, they are usually stronger photos because it is something you are passionate about. Also [be] well-rounded: you need to be able to do it all, know how to edit a photo, strong communication skills, positive attitude. There are people out there who take great pictures, but don’t know how to edit/crop, and there are people out there that are just negative or have a bad attitude. Trust me, people will hire someone who is easier to work with and a pleasure to be around then a great photographer who is a dick.
There will be hard days where you question you made the right choice and if this is something you will be able to do as a career. But if it is something you truly love then you will make it happen. It sounds cliché but I questioned myself every now and then early in my career and I’m glad I kept on pushing through. If you’re into sports photography I would check out these photographers: Donald Miralle, Josh Hedges, Al Bello, Todd Glaser, Jeff Bottari, Walter Iooss, Ed Mulholland, Patrick Smith… There are just way too many talented photographers to name but these were guys I was following when I started my journey.
Find more from Brandon Magnus at:
- Brandon Magnus on Instagram
- Search “Brandon Magnus” at Getty Images
- Walt has been involved in Muay Thai since 2013, having two in-ring fights under his belt. His main passion, though, is photography. See more of Walt's work at www.instagram.com/walt_zink_photography.