With the ability to fight and paint in equal measure, Jake McHugh is an undeniably talented man, and at Oktagon 49 in Cologne, Germany, he’ll look to exhibit his martial arts prowess when he collides with Ivan Klevets.
Brought up in Liverpool, the born-warrior gravitated towards judo and looked destined for success, quickly showcasing the skill necessary to make a career in combat sports. But for a period of time, he considered going down a different route. Blessed with creativity, McHugh excelled with a paintbrush in hand and ended up studying Fine Art at university.
In an exclusive interview with Sporf, he reminisced: “When I was picking my GCSE options, my teacher said, ‘You should do art’. I was like, ‘Really’? She replied, ‘Yeah, do it’. I had a really good bond with my teacher going through GCSEs, and she helped me through a lot and encouraged me to pick art as one of my A levels. And I had a great relationship with that teacher as well. So that helped get the ball rolling, and then I decided to do it at university. My favourite artists are Francisco Goya, Ivan Seal and Francis Bacon. They are on the weird side of painting, but that’s the kind of thing that I really liked.”
However, despite his artistic prowess, there was a bug in McHugh’s life he just couldn’t kick. With an itch to compete left unscratched, the scouser decided to pursue a career in MMA, and having amassed a 5-0 amateur record, it seems he made the right choice.
Possessing a likeable personality and a dangerous submission game, the prospect caught the attention of one of the biggest promotions in Europe and ended up on Oktagon Challenge: England vs Ireland.
Jake McHugh’s painting background came in handy on Oktagon Challenge
In the hotly contested series, the two nations went back and forth for bragging rights, with weekly challenges, igniting the flames for some serious rivalries. During the second episode, the teams had to put their painting abilities to the test. And it goes without saying that McHugh bagged the victory for his side.
He laughed: “The Irish team thought Oktagon was out to get them. They thought it was all fixed, like there was a proper conspiracy going on.”
In a fortunate turn of events, McHugh’s team comprised a group of lads who all shared a common interest — Star Wars.
His friend, George Staines, has completed Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, his coach, Brad Pickett, has more Lego than he’d care to mention, and his assistant coach, Akkone Wanliss, literally goes by the nickname ‘The Jedi’.
However, while McHugh owns his very own Darth Vader model, he wouldn’t fancy getting in the cage with the Sith Lord, instead opting for a much easier task.
He beamed: “I’d fight one of the Ewoks, so I know I would win. Darth Vader would destroy me.”
Jake McHugh plans to make his dreams come true at Oktagon 49
Every fighter fantasises about walking out in front of 20,000 screaming fans, and McHugh has the opportunity to do just that on his professional debut. But the task ahead of him is anything but easy, as his opponent isn’t coming to lie down.
Klevets is an ex-European Sambo champion and believes he has the Englishman’s number. But having lost in the first round of his battle with Armand Herczeg on the reality series, McHugh is more determined than ever to go out and prove to the world just how good he truly is.
He asserted: “This pro debut means a lot to me. This has been my goal from the start: to be a professional fighter, travel the world fighting, and have this type of life. But it’s about more than just my debut. It’s redemption for the show. It’s a second chance, and I can’t wait to get in there. All that matters in my life right now is smashing Ivan’s head in.”
Jake McHugh can’t wait to bag his rematch with Armand Herczeg and have a holiday in Amsterdam
Once he’s got Klevets out of the way, he’ll set his sights on avenging his defeat to Herczeg, hoping to secure the rematch for Oktagon 52 in Newcastle on January 27.
The fighter claimed: “He asked me for the rematch twice. He asked me once while we were in Slovakia after the show was all done, and then he messaged me, and he was like, ‘rematch’?, and I replied, ‘Definitely’. We’ve got the fight sorted, and I’m just waiting for him to sign.”
But before he heads back to Next Generation Liverpool to train with superstars, including Paddy Pimblett and Molly McCann, he’ll fly out to the Netherlands for a much-deserved celebratory getaway.
McHugh smiled: “Pavol Neruda and Ondřej Novotný, the two Oktagon owners, better buy me a bevvy and then me and my girlfriend are going to go straight from Germany to Amsterdam for a couple of days to get f***ed up.”
Featured Image Credit: Oktagon MMA / Getty