Fighting is one of the oldest forms of entertainment. The savagery of violence riles up any audience. The days of the gladiators at the Coliseum in Rome are no longer, but the tradition has long lived on in sports such as a Mixed Martial Arts. In this sport, two fearless souls are dropped in the corners of a steel octagon looking to beat down the other, while we look on for enjoyment. Each roundhouse kick draws fans closer to the fight and we are addicted to the jabs. We salivate at the chance to see that crushing knockout punch. When that blow comes, fans rise to their feet to cheer and flashes ignite the room to document the bloodshed.
This summer, Chris Unger, was behind one of those lenses as a photography intern for the Ultimate Fighting Confederation (UFC).
Unger, a senior in the Communications/Sports Journalism program, has always had a passion for photography and has followed the UFC heavily for the past four years. He applied for the position this past spring and went through the entire interview process, and finally, accepted the position in May. That meant one thing.
He was headed to Vegas.
He had to adjust from the green and leafy Northeast to what he described as “flat and brown” of desert of Nevada. That was just one of the many learning experiences he faced over the two month span in Sin City.
The official duties of his internship were vast. He spent a lot of time attending fights to capture photos, but he also spent time elsewhere.
“I was able to learn what a staff photographer was,” said Unger, “I spent time pulling photos from their catalogs for promotional stuff and working on my own photos.”
Unger detailed that he learned the “business side of photography” and that really helped him grow. In the COSJ program, students learn about several methods of journalism and media. So, in an internship, this was Unger’s chance to apply his skills in professional setting.
“I learned about the way to take MMA photos. I hadn’t done that before,” he said, “I wasn’t shooting for myself,” Unger continued.
With the MMA, everyone is waiting for that knock out punch because it is the most memorable move.
As a photographer, Unger had to adjust his timing and settings for the fights. He was always looking to capture that “punch face,” which was not always easy to get.
Unger was among 15 other interns while he was at UFC. While this was considered a job, it was more than that for Unger. This was a dream for the senior looking to go into photography.
“It was surreal. I was having so much fun. I had to remind myself that I was actually here,” admitted Unger.
When asked about his favorite moments, Unger said the whole experience was amazing, but he noted being cage side for the Ultimate Fighter finale as a highlight.
Also, Unger had the incredible chance to be in the same room with people he idolized, including Conor McGregor and Dana White.
“Conor McGregor came to start his training camp at the headquarters, where I was working, and was able to go there every other day to watch him train,” said Unger.
These are the opportunities that present themselves when students go out into the professional fields. For Unger, he was able to obtain exclusive access as a staff photographer.
Reflecting on his time with the UFC, Unger was able to find a path out of all this. While he has a sprouted a relationship with UFC, he has aspirations for the future too.
“I don’t want to limit myself to a staff photographer position,” said Unger. “I want to be doing something in multimedia and creating content, but I want photography to be a part of that.”