2023 has been a big year for OKTAGON MMA, the team has gone above and beyond to establish themselves as one of the most exciting promotions in MMA, and they’re not done yet.
As recently announced, OKTAGON have had a behind closed doors tournament with the best of Ireland taking on the best of England in the OKTAGON Challenge set to air later on this year.
I had the opportunity to speak to Team Ireland member, Denis Frimpong regarding his inclusion to this high velocity tournament.
To be expected, we couldn’t speak too much in regards to the goings on in Slovakia, this will of course spoil what’s to be aired, but we spoke of his many experiences out there with his team and exceptional coaches.
Denis ‘The Menace’ Frimpong 1-1-0 is an Irish professional Mixed Martial Artist currently competing in the Lightweight division, representing Manchester Top Team. He has competed for UAE Warriors, Budo Fighting Championship and has recently taken part in the OKTAGON Challenge for OKTAGON MMA.
I appreciate you taking the time to speak with me again Denis, no doubt you’re glad to be back home from Slovakia.
“It’s a bit 50/50 if you know what I mean. Towards the end of the 1st stink out there, obviously we’ve been there for 2 weeks, so I was like I can’t wait to get back home. But I knew as soon as I was back home we’d be planning to go back out there, so the 1st few days back I was preparing to head back. The grass is always greener, you know how people are. But it’s good to be back in the home gym now you know, and not having cameras following me around everywhere I go hahahaha.”
Hahaha, that must have been intense.
“Yeah, it was a high stress environment but you know, diamond’s thrive and were created under pressure. Some of the boys I’m not gonna lie, started cracking up a bit hahahahaha, we all started cracking up at different points. That’s why it was good to have a good, strong team morale there.”
No doubt an experience you’ll not soon forget, how did you take to fighting abroad?
“Obviously I fought abroad before, my pro debut was with UAE, that was a whole different experience. The weird thing about this trip was living in a house with guys you were fighting, that was definitely a new experience, there was something weird about that. It was a strange experience as you can imagine, I felt like my opponent definitely felt worse about it than I did. As you can imagine, anybody that’s fought me before and knowing the way I am with my opponents, living in a house with me is a whole different ball game to the standard abuse online.”
I can only imagine, I’ve seen some of your antics over the years. So it was sort of like the Ultimate Fighter?
“Yeah, very similar to that. You’re sitting there having breakfast and your opponent is making his breakfast in the kitchen and you’re staring each other out. The days leading up to the fight was a mad experience, you couldn’t get away from your opponent l, that was my favourite part of it. You couldn’t just block me on Instagram and not have to deal with my shit talk you know what I mean, I was there, 24/7.”
Hahaha, were there any scraps in the house?
“I can’t really say much, you’ll have to wait and tune in September to catch it. It’ll be good, they’re trying to secure some good television deals and such, so it’ll be available for everyone to watch.”
I look forward to it man, be great to see what transpired.
Fresh out on your professional endeavours in the cage, to get an opportunity like this must have been an open and shut case when receiving the call?
“To be honest I wanted to see who was on it, so I put my ear to the ground to find out. I heard some good names for the tournament and also, a couple of guys that I’ve been wanting to fight for a while so I was more than happy to do it. A promotion like OKTAGON, one of, if not the biggest in Europe, putting on 20 thousand seater shows in sold out arenas, in my opinion they are the fastest growing shows in Europe at the moment. They’re looking to move over to the UK and Ireland now, and me and the other guys on the show as well as the likes of Shem Rock, Akonne Wanliss being the few of the more experienced pros that they’ve signed, we are gonna be the flag bearers and the 1st crop of fighter’s from this side of Europe you know. We’ll get to showcase our skills and show that the UK and Ireland are a few steps ahead of continental Europe, and in terms of MMA experience.”
They are certainly making their intentions known. I have to agree. And as you just mentioned, you were coached by your close friend Shem Rock. Which No doubt made for an even better experience, working with a close friend and peer?
“Yeah, 100 percent, he’s cornered me a few times before. He cornered me for my amateur debut, he cornered me for my 2nd ammy fight and he cornered me for one of my biggest amateur wins against Solomon Simon. So having that bit of cohesiveness there was good. Obviously him being a good mate of mine we got to train together, it was a great experience. Obviously having Paddy Holohan there as well was great, a veteran of the game, one of the guys I watched as well as Conor McGregor when they were coming up and competing in the UFC. When I 1st touched Martial arts Paddy was one of the 1st guys I knew of, so it was just sereal being there with him and him coaching me and giving me support on the business side of things. How to manoeuvre the murky waters of MMA, everyone’s trying to take a cut of the money at the end of the day. You’ve got promotions, managers, all sorts you know. He gave me advice on how to move on the business side, how to move with the taxman and all that, hahaha. I learned a lot from the whole experience.”
Shem being a rising star with OKTAGON and has a very bright future ahead of him, do you feel being coached by such a lethal athlete of our era gave you guys the proverbial tools that were needed for this tournament?
“Yeah, 100 percent, he’s there doing it. As I said Paddy’s been there, done that, Shems there doing it right now. You can see his high level. His last fight on OKTAGON ended in a draw, it was a rough fight against a tough opponent, a very high-level guy, so he understands the OKTAGON scoring system. He’s learned from his mistakes and he’s got to experience that like ok, what do they score? They’re scoring submission attempts, they’re scoring damage, they’re not scoring control time. Every promotion is different, they judge slightly differently. Even though it’s unified rules, there are different things promotions are looking for. So having that there was a bit of an advantage in itself, someone that’s fought on and been through the scoring criteria, been to the judges decision, what ways they’re scoring and what they’re looking for.”
No doubt, you had quite the coaching team, full of experience.
As you previously mentioned, the OKTAGON Challenge was a very behind closed doors tournament and I know you are unable to talk much about the goings on, but how was the whole experience for you?
“Yeah mate it was sick, to be honest, it was a once in a lifetime thing. Regardless of what way it worked out, it was a once in a lifetime thing. There was a good team cohesion amongst team Ireland, I’ve made some friends for life there you know what I mean. That’s all I’m able to say at the moment really, it was like the Ultimate Fighter but on steroids. There were so many things that made it different to the Ultimate Fighter. We were in Eastern Europe, the weather was beautiful and we had a nice gaff, we were being treated well. We got provided food, weight cut stuff, it was amazing. OKTAGON is a big thing on that side of the world, so everyone was coming up to us asking what was going on, for photos. It was sort of a taste of what’s to come later down the line when the show airs and we hit the big time with it.”
I’ll definitely be marking it down on my calendar, I’ve been hyped for it since it was announced.
The best of Ireland vs the best of England, an explosive tournament for everyone involved. What did you make of your competition?
“Great competition. We had George Staines there, he’s a guy I’ve been wanting to fight since amateur, he’s been ducking me for a while. We got a chance to settle our beef, you had Hascen Gelezi, a good GB Top Team guy. Beau Gavin, a guy that I hadn’t really heard of up until the show but when you look into him, he’s been around the scene for a while as well. He was a good prospect back in the day, went through a bit of adversity and came back. Then you had Jake McHugh obviously coming in from the amateurs as well, a Judo Black Belt, a Jiu-jitsu Brown Belt out of Next-Gen, one of the top gyms in the UK. So yeah, it was a tough line-up when I saw them. They had Brad Pickett in their corner as well, an English MMA pioneer. I would say even more so than the likes of Michael Bisping, he’s been doing it for ages and beat Demetrious Johnson, one of the Goats. And obviously Akonne Wanliss, another good guy coming out on Renegade. So it was stiff competition you know what I mean, it really brought out the best of us as team Ireland. We had a good team ourselves in Armand Herczeg, Matty Elliott, a former opponent of mine Aaron McDonald and as I mentioned Paddy Holohan and Shem Rock as coaches. It was 2 solid teams, I can’t wait for the show to come out just to see the skills that were on display from everyone. And some great fights, some great banter in the house and some great extras. It’s called the OKTAGON Challenge so there were some challenges in it, without giving away too much. It was quality, it’s gonna be a good show and I can’t wait for it to air.”
Agreed, when I saw the line-up for both teams I just knew it would be explosive. I agree with you regarding Brad Pickett also, such a legend of the sport, I saw you grabbed a picture with him while you were out there.
“Yeah, that was my 1st time meeting him, mate. Obviously he’s the head Coach at GB Top Team. I’m at Manchester Top Team, so it’s kinda like a sister club. It was great to meet him. It was a bit of a wild moment, having a bit of back and forth banter with him as well with him being on the opposite side. That photo was taken on the last day of filming, when it was all said and done. I think I gained his respect, he’s not into all the shit talk hahahaha. I think on some level he respects my thing, everyone’s an individual, everyone’s got a different personality type. This sport is full of so many different types of people you know, you’ve got your real Martial Artists, you’ve got your proper fighters, you’ve got your athletes and mad characters. There’s no 1 fight fits all when it comes to this sport, so many personalities in this sport.”
I couldn’t agree more, that’s why it will always be my all-time favourite sports to watch, you never know what to expect.
As previously stated, your professional journey has only just begun and there must be plenty of opportunities arising for you, especially after your recent venture with OKTAGON. Have you given any thought into your next move, could a venture with OKTAGON be on the cards for you in the future?
“100 percent. I would say for the time being, we’d just have to wait and see if they’d like to keep me on. Obviously, we’re gonna have to wait for the show to air and see how everything plays out. If OKTAGON wants to keep me on, then I’m happy to fight for them you know what I mean. Like I said, they’re the biggest growing promotion in Europe at the moment. The likes of PFL don’t allow elbows, Bellator and Cage Warriors, they’re on their way out in my opinion. If you look at their shows they basically have to give tickets away for free, just based on the fact that people have seen it and it’s been done already. OKTAGON is doing something that hasn’t been done before. I think when the show comes out, people will see how big it is and the bug things they’re doing will be amazed. Hopefully I get to be on their event in the UK at the AO Arena, hopefully they smash that and sell it out, 18 thousand people screaming, big walkout and basically a home crowd as I live in Manchester now. I’ll have a few Irish people over, so hopefully everything goes to plan as I will set my sights on that OKTAGON belt. Shem I imagine would have already taken it at that stage by the time I get to that belt, then he’ll probably go down to Featherweight and take that belt and leave that Lightweight belt for me. That’s my plan for the near future I’d imagine.”
I look forward to the journey towards those aspirations.
Always a pleasure speaking with you Denis, wherever your path takes you, I wish you all the best and I’ll definitely keep a look out for your future announcements.
“Yes mate, I appreciate you having me on. You’re one of the real ones lad, you’ve had a few interviews with me before I was anything you know what I mean. I’ll always respect that.”
Anytime man, that’s greatly appreciated and means a lot.
Last but not least, do you have a message for the readers and anybody you’d like to give a shout-out to?
“Shout-out to my sponsors, they know who they are. If anyone would like to check them out head over to my Insta, they’re all ragged on my bio. Shout-out to the fans and my Manager for getting me the opportunity to get on that show. Stay tuned for the show, it’s gonna be a good one and you can trust me on that.”
Make sure to save the date for the OKTAGON Challenge to be aired later this year, it is set to be one for the ages and another giant step for OKTAGON MMA.