Here’s the second installment of my EliteXC/CBS Media Day adventures. To read part 1, click here.
After the press conference, I tag along with EliteXC’er Erik Naranjo to lunch with the rest of the fight team. We drop off Scott Smith in midtown and head to Newsroom. Newsroom is a juice-bar-health-food place across from paparazzi hang out, The Ivy. When we arrived, I was the only person with a camera heading in the opposite direction. Paps were all over somebody famous named “Von A-hole” and Brody Jenner. I glow with a bit of pride knowing I’m having lunch with the EliteXC fight team, Robbie Lawler, Nick and Nate Diaz, Jake Shields, and Gina Carano, and thank my hard work (I don’t believe in astrology and other similar crap) that I’m not a paparazzi.
People always say, “You’re so lucky to do what you do,” and I don’t really think it’s luck more than just a product of my efforts. But I am very grateful for my line of work to be essentially what I enjoy, and to be witness to this company’s emergence. I was at the very first Destiny press conference in late 2006 working as a boom operator. Now, EliteXC is going to be on network television.
Despite being mortal enemies just a few years ago, Robbie Lawler had no problem sitting only a seat down from Nick Diaz and across from his brother Nate. Everyone was snacking on a grilled artichoke and pressing EliteXC matchmaker JD Penn about his brother BJ’s upcoming fight. Meanwhile, Nick quizzes the waitress on vegan menu options for several minutes before finally pointing at my sandwich and saying, “Can I have that without the bread?” “Ahi?” she asks. Nick says, “Yeah-” and gestures in the air what looks like an ahi steak (I guess) while the waitress stammers, “But, but that’s not vegan.” Nick nods knowingly and proceeds to ask about sides and smoothie ingredients. Nick Diaz is awesome. Serious.
After a bit of rest, I ride with Gina Carano and Robbie Lawler to the Best Buy autograph signing. It being Los Angeles, it takes us twenty minutes to travel two miles. Upon arriving, I find the line of fans going out of the store stretching into the parking garage. The publicist is uneasy as the fighters are late. I walk by snapping shots of the crowd and he quips, “And look! Photographer Esther Lin!” He does this almost every time but no one ever cheers. Which is fine with me. I maneuver to the employee break room where they are hosting the fighters and snap this pic of Nick Diaz:
Which is now being photoshopped to bits on the Sherdog forums.
A giant man brings his baby along for the signing and asks to pose for a picture with Gina. Gina smiles and while they press closer for the picture, the baby suddenly starts to cry. Gina throws her hands up hopelessly, “I make babies cry!” then sits down, looking hurt. Later, the baby and man pose for a picture with Phil Baroni.
The rest of it goes as you would expect an autograph signing to go.
My favorite moments:
- Two high school boys awkwardly answer questions from a ProElite.com surveyor. When I pass I hear, “Uh, uh… Gina’s pretty.” Adorable.
- Robbie was a late addition to the signing, so as everyone passes him, they all say, “I know you’re not on the poster, but could you sign it?”
- Frank Shamrock showing off his scar and explaining his bone growth stimulator. I couldn’t stop giggling at the thought of an electronic bone grower.
- A young boy, who tells me he has a grappling tournament this weekend, poses for a picture with Nick, and Nick says, “Look mean!” But of course, the kid is elated, and just beams. This is his second attempt at looking mean.
- This man here actually printed out photos from Combatlifestyle.com to have autographed. Awesome!
- EliteXC matchmakers playing Guitar Hero III on a console behind the Best Buy signing backdrop and JD Penn saying, “This hurts my hands,” then getting schooled by a 9 year old. The world of video games is cruel.
- I overheard a fan saying to his friend in line, “Dude, that’s Gina Carano!” And his friend responding, “Who’s that?” Fan is taken aback, “She’s this fucking hot fighter!” His friend shrugs, “I only watch UFC events.” I shrug also, that’s what this signing is for, I guess. But whenever I’m out talking about my line of work, I always have to refer to UFC in order for most people to even have a vague idea of MMA. Most people have never heard of the term MMA.
Overall, it was fun for both the fans and the fighters. Many fans were thrilled to meet Frank Shamrock and Nick Diaz and all the fighters, gushing and taking pictures with them. Hell, I still get nervous when I meet fighters. When Tracy first took me to hang out with Jake Shields back in San Jose, I geeked out and was too nervous to talk to him, so I stood idly by. I think a lot of us in the media get desensitized to the excitement of meeting one’s favorite fighter for the first time. Yet even when I work on film and music video productions, I still love everything about it and am excited by ambitious camera moves, cool lighting, and the talent. For myself, I hope I remain as enamored with mixed martial arts and its world later in my career as I am now.