NORTH Tyneside’s Andy Ogle is now potentially just three bouts away from a £100,000 prize after making it through to the quarter-finals of US reality television show The Ultimate Fighter Live.
The 23-year-old, the only British fighter to make it onto the FX show, screened on ESPN in the UK, is still flying the flag for his homeland after upsetting the odds to beat former champion wrestler Mike Rio on Friday.
Andy has been banned from speaking to his family in Tynemouth – mum Jan, dad Gordon and brother Jonathan – and girlfriend Rachel Howard, 23, of Wallsend, since going into the show’s Las Vegas base just over a month ago, but he was allowed to talk to the News Guardian this week to tell of his joy at making it into the last eight.
“I’m delighted, definitely,” said Andy, a former pupil of Whitley Bay’s Marden High School and Tynemouth’s Priory Primary School.
“That’s what I’m here for, and it was great to fight again, especially after not having fought for such a long time.”
The mixed martial arts ace doesn’t know who he’ll be taking on for a place in the semi-finals yet after his second-round victory over Rio, 30, thanks to what’s known in the trade as a rear-naked choke, but is confident he’s got what it takes to make further progress towards the final on Friday, June 1.
“I’m just going to keep representing the UK as well as I can and get as far as I can on the show,” he said.
“I’m a fighter, so I fancy my chances with whoever I’m up against. I’ve just got to use my heart and my brain and employ my game plan.”
Andy says he is living the dream by making it onto the show, now in its 15th season and drawing viewing figures of more than 950,000, so he is determined to make the most of it while it lasts.
“It was always just a dream, just something in the distance,” he said. “I can remember being 16 or 17 and watching the show and thinking ‘that’s amazing’ and that I’d love to do that, and now here I am.”
Andy hasn’t been fazed either by the reality TV aspects of the show such as being in a confined space with strangers for weeks on end and being cut off from the outside world.
“It can get boring between fights, but I’m a thinker and I’ve had to use my brain a bit.
“This is a house full of 16 guys – eight now – and you can only hold your tongue so much, but I’ve been a little saint compared to some of the others.
“I’ve been writing a diary every day. That’s for me and my loved ones back home because I know three months are going to go by and I’d struggle to remember it all afterwards.”
The Ultimate Fighter Live is on ESPN at 3am on Saturdays.
n Look out for next week’s News Guardian to find out what made Andy take up fighting in the first place, why the force is with him and how he enjoys spending nights away from the gym or cage.