Get to Know 'Em: Tracy Lee discusses MMA photography
by Sean Salmon on May 14, 2008 at 12:26 pm ET
If you want to get close to fighters, hang out at their after-parties, go to their training camps, or just basically be given all-access to anything fight-related, all you have to do is have a pretty face and show up with a camera.
Wrong. And Tracy Lee is the proof of that.
This is a girl that works nearly 24 hours a day and truly loves it. But that doesn't mean the job is easy. She works tirelessly to capture all aspects of MMA, but she wouldn't have it any other way.
"I work from the time that I get up, until I go to sleep, but I don't sleep," she said. "Most of the time, I just sleep on the planes."
This is a girl that travels to and photographs approximately 10 shows a month, and she manages to visit and photograph training camps between the shows. All of her photographs are available online -- and viewing them is free.
"You can't replace the energy from the shows," she said. "It's amazing, but I prefer the training camps. I get to really know the fighters as friends. The only problem now is that I am getting to know so many of them. A lot of times they end up fighting each other. That's hard to watch."
The first time I met Tracy was in Las Vegas before my September 2007 fight with Travis Wiuff. My agent, Ken Pavia, set up a photo shoot for me because he needed some digital pictures for his website and for the promoters. I was simply blown away at how much time Tracy spent getting the pictures she wanted. We started in the cage and ended up taking some really good ones in the casino. She was taking pictures of me for about three hours -- for free.
Since then, nothing I hear about her work ethic surprises me.
In addition to shooting shows, after-parties, weigh-ins, weight cutting and training camps, Tracy even finds time for Brazilian jiu-jitsu training with Sergio Penya in Las Vegas.
"I just love it so much, and it helps so I don't have to watch my diet too closely," she said. "Although, my knee is hurting me, and I separated my shoulder."
Knowing how hard this girl works, I am sure she hurt herself battling some of the toughest guys in the gym. After all, she is not the type to sit in the back and go through the motions.
Although most all of her focus is on fighters and her website, combatlifestyle.com , she still finds some time to do portraits and some work where she originally started, napkinnights.com . She's also a regular poster on the Underground Forum (where for some reason, not everyone seems to appreciate what she is doing). As a fighter, I understand that I will be bashed from time to time, and I'm OK with it since this is the life I signed up for. But to bash someone that is giving everyone a backstage pass to see what goes on behind the scenes is crazy.
But typical Tracy, she takes it in stride.
"Of course it bothers me, but any press is good press," she said. "And even the ones talking bad are going and looking at my pictures."
As a fighter and a fight fan, keep up the good work, Tracy. And thank you for making me feel like I'm at some of the shows that I couldn't attend in person.