In photography, a great image is a combination of several elements assembled together to create just the right mood or capture the essence of a moment. Subject, composition, lighting, focus, lens, shutter speed and timing are just a few of the elements. Sometimes the photographer happens to be in the right place at the right time and instinct takes over to create a masterpiece. Other times, the photographer “sees” the shot in order to make the shot—deciding on every little detail.

Fighting is a lot like photography. There are so many elements that come into play that separate the good fighters from the great ones. Athleticism, knowledge, skill, drive, determination, conditioning, planning, nutrition and strength of mind and body are just a few that come to mind. And like photography, it takes practice, time and dedication to become a master.

Means (L) (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

Means (L) (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

UFC fighter Tim Means has been developing his art for quite some time. Means went 3-2, with those two losses coming against future UFC fighters Spencer Fisher and Luke Caudillo. He went off the martial arts radar for four years while battling drug addiction and doing time in prison.

“I try to do the right things now,” Means told The MMA Corner. “Sometimes it’s a struggle to keep my temper in check. I think my experience made me better. I can roll with the punches now, and I know that even the worst-case scenario is not as bad as it could be. I am seeing in my life that when I let things happen, things just seem to fall into place.”

Seeing things in a certain light can make or break a fighter.

“A guy, before I left, told me, ‘If you forget this place, you’ll return,’” said Means, speaking of prison. “It might get frustrating out here, but it’s never as bad as being in there. The last five years have been amazing, and I don’t think I’d be as successful.”

Means came out of prison a different man than when he went in. Since his release, he has won 17 fights and lost just four, bringing his pro record to a very respectable 20-6-1. His recent losses are to some of the best—first Jorge Masvidal, then Danny Castillo and, finally, Neil Magny.

There is a term in photography: Depth of Field. It refers to how deep the focus is. With the right lens, a photographer can choose to have the foreground, background and subject all in focus, but they can also choose to have just the eyes on a person’s face in focus, leaving the nose and hair in a soft blur. Focus is also imperative for a fighter.

“Under the lights and with the crowd screaming, it’s easy to get lost,” Means admitted. “I don’t want to hear them boo a boring fight. I lost focus [against Magny] when I looked at the ref. I had him on the fence and should have mixed in a takedown. But instead, I got into a good old-fashioned fist fight. I had him hurt and let him off the hook. The ref was talking to him, and I looked at the ref and that’s when [Magny] took my leg. It’s the little errors.

“For some reason, I got it into my head not to use my wrestling. ‘It’s an MMA fight, the crowd wants to see the fighters stand up,’ is what I’ve been thinking during my fight. But I need to remember that it is an MMA fight and I’ve got the tools to dictate where the fight goes. I’m learning to slow things down. When guys get body hooks or double legs, I know what to do—I just need to let my auto-pilot kick in. My coaches, Jon Judy and Tom Vaughn, are drilling this into me.”

Choosing the right lens determines the focus and the amount of light. Choosing the right weight class is also very important.

“When I got out of prison, I was walking around at 180 [pounds] and making the weight cut to 155 wasn’t as hard,” Means said. “It sucked, of course, but it wasn’t too bad. I did a catchweight at 167, and 10 days later the UFC called.

Means (L) (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

Means (L) (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

“My manager at the time, maybe he was pitching my name for table scraps, but he was getting me late notice fights—Masvidal, [Sam] Stout. I needed money. I wasn’t doing the right things against those guys. But even against Castillo, I was watching my portion, running, everything. But when I look at those pics from the day of the weigh-in, I looked like a crackhead. My eyes were sunk in; I looked weak. And missing weight against Castillo—I enjoy fighting, but I wasn’t able to enjoy those moments because of the weight cut.”

The greatest photographers have had a passion for their subjects. Ansel Adams was continually in awe of what Mother Nature could do and made it is his life’s work to try to capture as many of those moments as possible. The best mixed martial artists have that same passion.

“Fighting at welterweight is a better fit,” Means admitted. “It’s a realistic cut for my body. I am tall and not beefy and just didn’t have enough weight to give at lightweight. It still sucks, but it’s doable. I missed four years of cutting weight, but [I] still know that those extreme cuts can shorten one’s career. I missed advancing my career, but I also didn’t beat my body up like the guys who have been cutting too much weight for too long.”

The next phase of an artist’s work is always the most exciting for them and their fans. Means is slated to face the 17-4 Hernani Perpetuo next. The fight takes place on July 26 at UFC on Fox 12 in San Jose, Calif.

“I haven’t watched too much of his film, but I know that he trains out of Nova Uniao with guys like [Jose] Aldo and [Renan] Barao,” Means said. “He is tough, and I have to be prepared. I want to do things to mix the fight up. I pack power and need to use that to set up my takedowns.

“I need to be a true MMA fighter. Coach Arlene [Vaughn] has been working on my Thai form and to be able to break my opponent’s grips. I am looking for ways to bring my knees in the middle. I was a wrestler when I started and now known as more of a stand-up guy. So, we’ve been drilling one takedown this whole fight camp.

“It’s not time to switch camp or coaches…it’s just time to start listening. When I get tired I am going to do what coach Jon says. I am going to stop the wrestler’s shots and get my own in. At this level, I need to use my head more. We’ve been drilling and drilling until these moves are second nature. I am stubborn and I need to work on that.

“The training has been so hard, so hot. We’ve got no A/C. We go out in the desert, so when fighting in that air-conditioned arena, it’s going to feel comfortable.”

The thing about photography is that is seems to stop time, to freeze a moment. Once taken, the work is done. For fighters, each fight is a snapshot of where they were in their career, what they put into their training, and what they were able to do in a certain moment. Means is creating a body of work that shows that he knows his craft and has dedicated himself to getting better every day and in every way.

Tim would like to thank his coaches, Tom and Arlene Vaughn, Jon Judy and his teammates at Fit NHB for all their support and work, as well as his fiancée, Brenda Gonzales, who even though she is training for her own fight she still does most of the cooking. He would also like to thank all his friends, family and fans. Means would also like to thank his sponsors: TKO Vapor and Damage Control Mouthguards. You can follow Means on Twitter: @meanstim

About The Author

Staff Writer

Amber currently resides in Tampa, Fla., a hotbed of MMA. She was introduced to the sport Memorial Day weekend in 2006 and quickly became addicted. Amber loves the fact that the biggest and strongest don’t always win, the respect the competitors show and that women are finally getting their shot. She also writes a blog for Fight It Out gear. When not watching MMA, Amber can be found at the beach playing volleyball, in the gym learning from Tampa’s only female BJJ Black Belt, cheering on her eight-year-old daughter in tae kwon do, or at her day job. She has a girlfriend, daughter, too many dogs and a cat who lives in the attic. Communication highly encouraged at amber at fightitout dot com.