Lights, Camera, Action!


Breaking the MMA Lens: The weigh-ins

A fascinating aspect of any combat sport, including MMA, is the weigh-in.

I’ve shot a number of weigh-ins and always find them interesting. The photographer is primarily there to get some posed photos of each fighter for promotion of that fight and future fights.

The weigh-in usually takes place in a small area or room. It can be at a gym, the event center, a restaurant, bar or office. Sometimes there’s a press conference before the weigh-in or speeches at a podium which also require photographers. Then some fanfare and the weigh-ins.

Breaking the MMA Lens
Photo taken at MMA Platinum Gloves weigh-in.

There’s always a lot of people in a small space and there is never enough air. There are fighters, promoter, managers, trainers, sanctioning personnel, clerks, assistants, news people, photographers, videographers and more. It’s crowded in there. Many of the fighters are trying to make weight and haven’t eaten. You’d think people would be cranky. Surprisingly, everybody is usually excited about the upcoming bouts and they’re in great spirits even though they’re hot, tired and hungry.

Whenever there is a lot of people in one room it’s an adventure to get a good posed photo. There are a lot of distractions. The fighters are generally accepting to directions though and it runs fine. Although, there is always a fighter or two who don’t want to pose and you have to ease them into it.

The fighters sign in, strip down to their underwear, weigh in and get their photos taken. I always wonder how much thought goes into the underwear and sock selections. Numerous people will see them and they are getting their photo taken. How much do they think about their choices before time? There are both sexes at every weigh-in. Are they trying to impress with their underwear selection? I’ll bet there are three types of people, pretty much like everything else.

  • I don’t really care about it as long as I don’t look like a slob (I have never seen a slob or holes in any garment, so everyone at least must think about it).
  • I am aware people will see me and I want to look good
  • I will take extra time to pick out the perfect underwear and sock combo.


The fighter then poses in front of the event banner for a single shot and set up for the all important ‘Faceoff’ shot. Facing off is when they put on their mean faces and stare at each other with their fists up or stand chest to chest intimidating each other. This shot is also against the event banner.

The lighting is usually not the greatest in this environment, so I use a flash. I rarely use a flash for anything, but this is an exception. The shots are posed and are used for promotional purposes. This is different than the fight itself, where there can be no flashes used. If a flash goes off in a fighters’ eyes during a fight, all kinds of bad things can happen. But out of the ring, a flash is fine.

As usual, I use two cameras. The Canon 7D and Fujifilm X-E2. I attach an external flash to the Canon and use that for all the posed shots. I use a 35mm prime canon lens for this. If the room is a little bigger I use a 50mm prime instead. On the Fuji I use a wide angle lens, the 18mm or 23mm primes, to get the feel of the room and to get some candid shots.

I try to get the weigh shots processed, edited and to the client as soon as possible so they can be used for promotion. That may mean a 12-hour turnaround time.

[email protected]

Joe LoBianco
Joe LoBianco
Joe LoBianco writes the photography column Breaking the MMA Lens for MMA Crossfire. New columns on the 1st and 15th of each month.

Latest articles

Related articles