This is number twenty-eight in Jack Brown’s series of interviews with MMA fighters and personalities, and for this particular interview, we’re pleased to feature Cage Rage and UCMMA’s, Dave O’Donnell. Please enjoy our conversation below.
Jack Brown: What were your early experiences with martial arts/combat sports when you were young?
Dave O’Donnell: I started training Judo when I was ten years old. I discovered Jakob Style self-defense when I was eighteen, which changed my whole outlook on life. I started MMA training in 1995, and I have been teaching MMA since 1996. My coaching came to an end in 2010, before creating UCMMA. I wanted to give 100% commitment to MMA and didn’t have the time to concentrate on teaching as well as creating a number of TV shows.
JB: You are well known from your days in top UK MMA promotion, Cage Rage. How did you first get involved with the promotion?
DO: Myself and Andrew Geer sat down together and thought of a way we could bring MMA to the masses in the UK. Thus, we formed Cage Rage. It was a fast success. Within eight shows, Cage Rage became the talk of the town when we brought over the current pound-for-pound, greatest MMA fighter to date, Anderson “The Spider” Silva, to take on London boy, Lee Murray. Cage Rage went from strength to strength, and the rest was history.
JB: Cage Rage had so many of today's greatest MMA fighters - Anderson Silva, Vitor Belfort, Bigfoot Silva - compete for them. What were a few of the most memorable fights for you?
DO: Cyborg vs. Manhoef, Anderson Silva vs. Tony Fryklund, Vitor Belfort vs. Anthony Rea, Michael Bisping vs. Mark Epstein, Brad Pickett vs. Vaughan Lee, Murilo Rua vs. Mark Weir, Butterbean vs. James Thompson, Matt Lindland – The list goes on and on and on.
JB: Got to ask, sorry, but please, can you give us one or two Lee Murray stories?
DO: I would love to tell ya, but we would have to kill ya. LOL!
JB: How did UCMMA first come together as a promotion back in 2008?
DO: After the collapse of Elite XC, it was either make or break for me. MMA was my life, and it still is. That’s why I am here today, with an army behind me trying to drive the UK MMA scene where it belongs - on the mainstream circuit. I put everything I had on the line to give it another go. I got Cage Rage to the right places, and I know I can do the same with UCMMA. Muhammad Ali once said, “He who is NOT courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”
JB: Over the past few years, what have been some of the highlights of the numerous UCMMA events?
DO: There was Brad Pickett winning the featherweight championship. And there’s the latest star taking the UFC by storm, former UCMMA light-heavyweight champion, Jimi “The Posterboy” Manuwa, who has one of the most devastating punches in MMA. Take a look at his KO’s, getting over 1.5 million hits here:
There was also Tom “Kong” Watson winning the middleweight championship. Jack, I could go on with loads, but you will just have to check us out on UCMMA.com or we will be here all night.
JB: Your next event is UCMMA 33, on April 6th, live from The Troxy in London, England. What are the fights that fans should be the most excited to see?
DO: Although these fighters are not known worldwide yet, trust me, you will definitely see these guys in the UFC sooner or later. We don’t just book winners. We book exciting fighters, and the card from top to bottom is exciting. Our good friend from LA, Tapout Movies’ director, Bobby Razak, has worked with some of the best MMA shows in the world and he has given UCMMA his stamp of approval. Just take a look at his promo for UCMMA:
Some shows look amazing on TV, but in the live auditorium you get left with a sour taste in your mouth. UCMMA is not just for TV. We give the audience a night to remember.
JB: Who are some of the other fighters in UCMMA that we should expect big things from in the future?
DO: Ben Callum, Darren Towler, Ashleigh Grimshaw, Cory Tait, Spencer Hewitt, Jamaine Facey, and former NBA star, Chi Parry, just to name a few.
JB: You were born and raised, and currently reside, in London. What are some of the things that best represent what London is all about?
DO: Over here in the UK, London is the capital, and it’s also the capital for MMA. There are MMA shows popping up here, there, and everywhere, but only the brave survive. UCMMA is what represents London. You’re always finding celebrities roaming around our venue, watching the show. Beautiful models, top professional footballers, when you’re seated around them, you know you’re at the best place in town.
JB: Last question, Dave, and thanks for taking the time to do this. What's left for you to achieve in the fight business, and do you have any other plans or goals at the moment?
DO: Are you kidding me? I never stop, Jack. I have the ambition of making MMA mainstream in the UK just like it is in the states. I would love to make MMA mainstream so EVERYONE knows what mixed martial arts is. Just like the football is on TV every day.
Jack, I would like to thank you for getting in touch with me. And I would like to thank the team I have with me, including @BobbyRazak and my right hand man, @HitmanHarryMMA, who works endlessly to make the events happen. Most importantly, thank you to the fans that keep supporting us day in and day out.
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