Oktagon MMA’s new reality show, Oktagon Challenge: England vs. Ireland, has brought plenty of trash talk and plenty of fun as the two teams of rival MMA prospects go head to head in team challenges before returning to live together under one roof.
The show, which streams in the UK on Channel 4’s platforms, offers a chance for a group of up-and-coming fighters from England and Ireland to earn a contract with the European promotion, and Team Ireland prospect Armand Herczeg moved one step closer to that dream with a victory in Episode 2 of the series.
Chatting about his experience on the show to date, Herczeg said learning to live in close proximity to his competitive rivals took some getting used to.
“We were sitting around playing Mario Kart with Team England, but it was odd because we’d also wanted to punch their faces in,” he said.
“It was hard to get used to at first, having eight fellas living in one house, there’s a lot of testosterone going around and you could literally smell it in the air.
“We have to sit in the house and look at these boys and be like ‘I’m actually fighting one of these lads so I’m not going to try and be too nice to them.’
“There were also times where we’d all sit down and talk about our families and everything, and then I’d be sitting there thinking ‘I could end up fighting them, so I need to at least stop giving them so much information.'”
Herczeg also said that he has enjoyed the format of Oktagon Challenge, and said that the focus on the team-versus-team competition and reality-show banter between the competitors gives it the edge over its long-running UFC forerunner, The Ultimate Fighter.
“The Ultimate Fighter has really taken the reality side out of the show,” Herczeg suggested.
“It helps the fighters grow their image, but they’ve made it very commercialised and not as fun to watch anymore as the older seasons were.
“I think you get more originality out of Oktagon Challenge, more heated, in the moment, scenes. When fighters like Denis (Frimpong) and Hascen (Neri Gelezi) were going at it with each other, that’s not scripted, that’s all real, whereas I feel like The Ultimate Fighter has gotten to the point where people are going in there and focusing just on the fights. Instead, we had fun with it, we forgot the cameras were there.
“It was very enjoyable living in the house with the boys. It was a great craic. You can see from the episodes that us Irish lads, we have that banter, we’re there to do pranks and we’re there to annoy the English lads.
“I’ve seen some comments after Episode 2 on YouTube – some people aren’t happy with how we’re presenting ourselves. But at the end of the day this is the way Irish people are. We have the banter, and we have the craic and we won’t pretend to be anyone else.”
The challenge aspect to the show is a popular feature to the event. Rather than pitting the fighters against each other in purely physical, combat-sport challenges, the show is taking them out of their comfort zones, with Episode 1 thrusting them into the pit lane to compete in a pitstop challenge, while Episode 2 saw the teams face off in a spray-painting competition.
After Team England took the win in the tyre-change challenge, they were treated to flying lessons as their reward. Herczeg said that only served to fire up Team Ireland even more.
“When we heard they (Team England) were flying in planes, it annoyed us even more, so it kind of pushed the team to do better on the challenges because we didn’t want them getting any more rewards,” he said.
“When we heard about the reward we were more fiery again, and I think it gives the viewers a bit of fun out of it – it’s not just about us training and fighting. The reward systems and the challenges will appeal to viewers who are maybe new to MMA.
“It won’t just be watching the lads train and getting ready and to fight. You’re getting a bit of fun out of it as well, with the challenges and rewards.”
Oktagon Challenge: England vs. Ireland episodes 1 and 2 are now available now on Channel 4 streaming service and Channel 4 YouTube channel in the UK & Ireland.