One of the most star struck and surreal times i've ever experienced in the MMA/UFC game was when Ryan Loco and I met up with Chonan in San Diego during the Strikeforce fight where Shinya Aoki fought Lyle Beerbohn. Loco and I became friends with Chonan-san while he was training with Mayhem at Mark Munoz' Reign training center in Southern California.
Somehow, around the same time that I was playing around with new studio techniques, we managed to get the legendary Aoki-san in the studio, to shoot him in the new Jaco technical training shorts, but to also auction off a signed 1 of 1 Jaco Japan hat. Loco had the idea to get them to sign the hat and he set up an auction to benefit the Tsunami Relief program after the big earthquake off the coast of Japan in 2010.
(Dean stands in for a light test)
After the shoot we got to hang out with Aoki, Chonan and Dean for a bit at the studio and then went back to the hotel - turns out it was the same night that I met Rich Chou who was matchmaking and doing various executive things with Strikeforce. Anyway - after Loco and I said our good-byes, not 10 minutes after we left Aoki tweeted us.... and Loco and I both immediately saved that tweet in our twitter favorites. Aoki was a really quiet guy, but very cool and welcoming to us.
We later auctioned off the hat for about 560$ and sent it off. Not really a lot to contribute, but happy that we got the MMA community involved. Big up to Loco for getting that auction going.
Naturally, after the shoot wrapped up - knowing that Aoki was the biggest star that I got to shoot in a studio setting at the time. I hit up my very good bud Jeff Stevens, who makes movie posters for big Hollywood flicks. He put a great finish on the Aoki selects and I promptly put them up on my blog. Over the last 2.5 years, a guy used my shot to mock up a "PRIDE" Light Weight Grand Prix poster and won some accolades online.
Aoki seemed to dig it, too. He posted it up on his facebook.
Around the same time, Pete Ulatan did a pretty sick photoshop perspective with the Chonan and Aoki shot:
So after all this fun, the shot sort of took a little nap until I got a call from Bellator - It seems they wanted to use the shot to promote their fight with Eddie Alverez. Unfortunately, I didn't get the message in time because I was out in Japan with Heavy and not paying any attention to my email.
I got a facebook message just the other day from Mr. Loco that my Aoki shot had resurfaced. Turns out that Metamoris - one of the worlds most elite grappling tournaments wanted to use the Aoki shot to make a billboard and to promote their marquee fight. I can't wait to see how the billboard would look - It would be up in Los Angeles and only the 3rd time one of shots would be on a billboard. The event is on June 9th and should be one hell of a bout. My buddy Scott Hirano is actually the #1 photog for the press tour and fight week. So, here is the final poster promo that is everywhere. And again - Feeling so blessed to work with the Gracie's and contribute to this movement.
Peep out the several bonus shots from the Triumph United party where we met Chonan.
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