MIXED martial artist Andy Ogle says even the near-incessant rain of recent weeks hasn’t dampened his joy at being back in Britain after spending three months on a reality TV show in the US.
Andy, of Tynemouth, was the only Briton to make it on to the 15th series of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) reality TV show The Ultimate Fighter, making it through to the quarter-finals.
And now the 23-year-old is settling back into life in the UK with mum Jan, dad Gordon, brother Jonathan and girlfriend Rachel Howard, a trainee physiotherapist, after his stint in Las Vegas.
“I really, really missed the UK,” he said.
“There was no moisture in the air, and I actually said to myself ‘I just want to experience a little bit of rain’, and I came back, and was there moisture in the air? It has been raining cats and dogs. I just laughed. If you ask, then you shall receive.
“When I came back, I had one weekend with my girlfriend where I just ate everything and anything.
“I felt a little bit self-conscious about being a bit of a piggy, but it was lovely to spend quality time with her.
“I hadn’t spent any time with a woman for three months, so I just wanted to hold her.
“Just being in the presence of a woman and just watching a movie with the person I love the most was amazing.
“Nothing has ever changed with her – she is just Rachel, and I am just Andy. It was absolutely lovely.
“I have done my fair share of shedding tears, and I was sick of having all these emotions.
“When I saw my girlfriend, I said I have had enough of tears and I just squeezed her to death because I had spent so long imagining holding her.”
The cage-fighting career that took Andy onto TV screens across the world began with kickboxing lessons at the Attitude Martial Arts Academy in North Shields, followed by a degree in sports science at Sunderland University.
He now trains at the city’s Section 18 Fight Academy.
Despite spending three months in the UFC show’s house without being allowed to talk to anyone back home – except one phone call to the News Guardian – and no entertainment except talking to each other, Andy says he wouldn’t hesitate to do it all again.
“I would do another three months in the house,” said the North Tynesider, Europe’s Supremacy Fight Challenge featherweight champion.
“I am a very self-motivated. I don’t need anyone to push me.
“I am the one-more-round kid. I believe my cardio is second to none.
“I have had to think for myself since leaving. In the house, I just had to train. They would take us there and take us back
“We would train, cook and wash my clothes on a Thursday, and that was it.
“Since being back, I have had to really think. Now I can actually look at the time, because in the house there was no need for a watch because they told me when to do everything.
“They took my freedom and my privacy, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
Andy was knocked out of the running for the show’s top prize – a £1m UFC contract – by Al Iaquinta, but it was being unable to fight during the show’s finale for medical reasons that upset him the most.
“It was the first time in the house when I felt alone in the whole experience,” he said.
“I was sharing everything with these people. We were a part of each others’ lives for a quarter of a year.
“When you don’t have tv and books, you have conversation.
“When I couldn’t fight in that finale, I was alone.”
Andy, a former pupil of Marden High School and Tynemouth’s Priory Primary School, will be back in action – and on home soil – in three months’ time.
The UFC is staging a fight night on Saturday, September 29, at the Capital FM Arena in Nottingham.
The event will see Andy take on fellow former Ultimate Fighter Live contestant Akira Corassani, from Sweden, in a featherweight bout, and English bantamweight contender Brad Pickett will square off against Canadian Yves Jabouin.
“On September 29, I will get my opportunity, but I feel as if I am blessed. In the bigger picture, I am blessed,” said Andy.
“I feel very proud to be a part of it. I wasn’t a patriotic person before the experience, but when I went to America, I felt as if I was representing my country and not just my town.
“You realise how small but powerful England is.
“This country is very passionate and does a lot for being small. We make our presence known.”
Andy is confident that, as in football’s European Championships, England will triumph over Sweden.
“I want it so badly that it physically hurts my soul, because I want it so much,” he said.
“I will keep on training like a madman. I want to be a complete mixed martial artist.
“They will think this is like going up a steep hill with no end in sight. I want to keep on coming.
“I am more of a lover than a fighter, but I’m more of a joker than a lover.
“I am taking it one fight at a time. I feel it would be disrespectful to Akira if I looked past this fight, but if he dreams about beating me, he should wake up and say sorry.
“It is my goal to fight for the UFC and to win a title, and I will be damned if he is going to take my long-term goal of getting a title shot before I’m 28.
“All you have to do is believe in yourself, and you can do it.
“I am living proof that anyone can do it. I just dream big. If you can dream it, you can do it.”
Tickets for the Nottingham fight night are on sale now, priced from £75 to £225, at www.ufc.com and www.capitalfmarena.co.uk