The toughest guys often have the most interesting stories to tell, and it’s the job of story-driven photographers like John Ferguson to get the word out for them. The brutal world of contact sports like mixed martial arts and cage fighting is one of the best places to find such subjects. The London-based photographer found himself with a bunch of fighters, each with their own part to play in the savage cage fighting scene.
If Jean Yves Lemoigne managed to find grace amidst strength in Muay Thai boxers, there’s nothing like it in the realm that John witnessed and photographed several years back. “If you think you’re hard enough,” the title of his set, alone tells it all. It’s as if that’s an open challenge to both the fighters and himself as a documentary photographer.
John’s story began where it all begins for cage fighters — in a gym, which he described having “an unmistakable smell, a heady melange of stale sweat and damp clothes.” His visual story came with a detailed written account of his experience, along with some interesting anecdotes of the characters he came across along the way.
“The men are various shapes and sizes, some small, some overweight, others very large and frankly frightening. One man, especially tall and quite literally rippling with muscles can be seen shadowboxing beside the gym’s large windows. I watch him, transfixed, and try to imagine facing him in a caged ring. The thought is chilling.”
There’s no need for the distraction of color in such a hardcore environment. Lots of grappling, faces in agony, blood-stained faces, tough training, and action where the actual cage fights happen. It’s an effective set in black and white, a classic style where composition and a compelling narrative best stand out. “If the sport lacks finesse, it definitely makes up for it as a spectacle,” John also said in his detailed account. And as his photos show, what a spectacle it was for fans of this raw and brutal sport.