Bryan Lacey previews epic Oktagon 48 card, featuring an ex-prisoner fighting a police officer, an actual Jedi, and a hero who’s defeated cancer

With palpable charisma and a love of MMA coursing through his veins, Bryan Lacey has established his place as one of the greatest commentators in the game. And on November 4, his beloved Oktagon MMA will debut in the UK at the AO Arena in Manchester, and he can’t wait to call the action.

Oozing an undeniable charm honed through years of touring the British comedy circuit, the presenter knows exactly how to sell a show. But with a card as stacked as the one the Czech-based promotion is bringing to our shores, rather than needing to convince fans to tune in, he’s merely raising hype and providing the cherry on top of an already delicious cake.

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Bryan Lacey loved every second of presenting Oktagon Challenge: England vs Ireland

Standing inside the cage at the Tipos Arena in Bratislava, Slovakia, fresh off a seven-second KO win for Karlos Vémola, the broadcaster was on cloud nine, and perhaps that’s why he went along with my outrageous Pop Idol reference.

In a bid to reinvent the game, the organisation has gifted the world ‘Oktagon Challenge: England vs Ireland’, which has, in turn, delivered the greatest rivalry since Will Young and Gareth Gates, in the form of Hascen Neri Gelezi and Denis Frimpong.

In an exclusive interview with Sporf, Lacey laughed: “Oh my, I couldn’t ever have imagined you putting Will Young and Gareth Gates in that category. I was there; I lived and breathed that rivalry. But now, to see those two put up against Hascen and Denis, The People’s Main Event, that’s great.

“I can’t take credit for what the show has given because the eight fighters who’ve taken part, beared their souls, lived with each other in the house and went through the highs and lows, giving everything they have for the show, it’s them who deserve the credit. It’s been a blessing to be a tiny part of it. And while people don’t know what is going to happen yet, from being there and knowing how this plays out and what we have coming to Manchester, it’s only going to get better.”

Bryan Lacey is buzzing for Oktagon MMA 48

In a bill brimming with talent, two famous faces have traded their lives of luxury in favour of going through the gruelling reality of what it’s really like to be an MMA fighter. Reality star, Jake Quickenden, and comedian, Paul Smith, will go-to-toe in a battle that’s sure to captivate the nation.


Their remarkable journeys have pulled on the heartstrings of fans who’ve been with them every step of the way through ‘Stage to the Cage’. And due to the programme’s success, Lacey has another idea up his sleeve.

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He beamed: “You’ll be surprised, but my brain has already been working on this. I’ve loved everything about this project. I’m not going to say any names or what world they come from, but what I will tell you is that I want to do it with two girls.

“We saw two amazing womens’ fights at Oktagon 47. I want to show how ladies represent this sport and go on that journey with them. Especially as a father of a daughter, I want to show how this sport can help grow confidence, self-defence and showcase the community that comes with it. Watch this space. ‘Project Y’, as we’re calling it, is coming next year.”

Bryan Lacey can’t wait to watch Akonne Wanliss in action

On June 29, at the spectacular Štvanice stadium, Akonne Wanliss produced an almighty statement. Dressed as Darth Maul, ‘The Jedi’, walked out with his lightsaber, bagged a stunning KO, and ate a pack of Jaffa Cakes to top it all off.

To put it simply, the Birmingham-based fighter radiates superstar. And Lacey knows it.

He explained: “He’s a star, an absolute star. Everything about him oozes that star quality. On top of that, he can really fight. He’s in that Renegade Gym. He trains with the absolute best. Akonne’s sparring Leon Edwards. All the fighters there are sensational.

“In Manchester, he’s fighting Jakub Bahnik, who’s known as ‘The British Slayer’. He’s already beaten Ashley Grimshaw and Jay Cucciniello in the first round. But this is the era of UK MMA. Oktagon is coming at the right time. We’re coming next year with four shows. Fans deserve the experience.”

Bryan Lacey tells the story of Shem Rock

In a contest destined to create fireworks, former prisoner, Shem Rock, will take on police officer, Jaroslav Pokorný, in a bout that you simply couldn’t write.

After being wanted for a crime he didn’t commit, the Liverpudlian fled to Malaysia, where he spent the next decade evading the law and learning martial arts. Ultimately, after taking the risk of travelling to Belfast, Northern Ireland, for a title fight, he was put behind bars.

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However, when new evidence proved his innocence, he gained an added sense of motivation to chase his dreams. But when fight night arrives, will the Scouser be able to hold his nerve?

Lacey asserted: “The fight is already electric. They’re going back and forth on social media. Lines have definitely been crossed. For me, it will come down to who can control their hatred.”

Aaron Aby is attempting to complete the ultimate Cinderella story

In the main event, stands a man, who we can all take inspiration from. Born with cystic fibrosis, the doctors gave him little chance of living past his teenage years. But in a testament to his unrivalled fighting spirit, he overcame the odds to forge a successful career in combat sports.

However, his bad luck wasn’t over, as he received a devastating cancer diagnosis. Yet, somehow, he managed to overcome all the hurdles placed in front of him, to not only beat his condition, but rise like a phoenix from the ashes, en route to bagging his shot at Oktagon glory.

Can Aaron Aby win Oktagon flyweight gold?

In a tale that embodies indescribable levels of heart and determination, Lacey knows just how much becoming the 125-pound King would mean to Aby.

He concluded: “I’ve known him for a long time. I was regularly working with him while he had cancer. There was a point where we were told that he wasn’t going to make it. We had to get ready for a life without Aaron Aby in it. And thank God he beat the odds.

“He did the same thing with cystic fibrosis. His family was told not to let him exercise; it will make it worse. But they’re from a world of sport. They dedicated him to martial arts, and he turned his life around. Then he battled cancer and was told he’d never fight again. However, just a year later, he returned to the cage.

“A couple of years on, he’s fighting for the Oktagon title, not too far from Wrexham where he’s from. Everything he’s given for the sport and his family will culminate on that one night, and he’s got a tough opponent.

“Elias Garcia is legit. He’s fought in the UFC and Combate Global. It’s as tough a fight as Aby will ever have. But we’ve seen him overcome tremendous odds in his personal life. I’ve got a lot of love for that guy, and I’m excited to see him make that walk. Let’s see if he can make his dreams come true.”

Featured Image Credit: Oktagon MMA