‘UFC is King, and Everyone Else Has to Find Their Own Path' - OKTAGON MMA Owner on the Realities of Growing an MMA Organisation

OKTAGON MMA, founded by Ondrej Novotny and Pavol Neruda in 2016, has become Europe's top MMA promotion. Novotny shares their journey, risk-taking, and plans for expansion amid UFC's dominance.

Louis Hobbs
Louis Hobbs

Last Updated: 2024-05-16

Naim Rosinski

6 minutes read

Since its inception in December 2016, OKTAGON MMA has rapidly evolved into the premier mixed martial arts promotion in Europe. Selling out 20,000-seater arenas across the continent, the Czech and Slovakian-based promotion is set to host OKTAGON 57 in a sold-out arena in Frankfurt, Germany. 

Co-owner Ondrej Novotny reflects on their remarkable journey and outlines their long-term goals.

The Birth of OKTAGON MMA

Both Ondrej Novotny and his business partner, Pavol Neruda, risked a lot to bring their vision to life, each taking out £20,000 bank loans to start the business. Discussing this decision, Novotny revealed his fearless approach to financial risks.

“I’ve never been scared about these kinds of things. I don’t see money as something important. It gives me freedom, but it is not something which I get hung up on. If I can chase my dreams for just £20,000, then I will do it.

“I’ve always had a win mentality, and I’ve always been so sure that I would succeed that I have never thought about the consequences of losing.

“If I’m going for something, I really believe that it is going to be successful, but this is life, you can’t win every time.”

From Athlete to Promoter: Novotny’s Background in Sports

Before founding OKTAGON MMA, Novotny's experience in the sporting sector laid a solid foundation for his role as a leading figure in the promotion. He shared his journey from athlete to promoter.

“When I started in combat sports, I did Thai boxing, but at that point, I was the national player for the Czech handball team. My body is not on the level to be a professional athlete. Every time I pushed myself, I always injured myself, and that’s when happiness starts to go. Now I train Thai boxing again and I really want to be more involved in jiu jitsu.

“My dream was to always be a match-maker, and mostly I am the match-maker for OKTAGON. When I started to MC, it was because no one did it well in the Czech Republic. My background is in TV, and when I started in 1999, I was a TV commentator across boxing, Thai boxing, and other sports.

“From there, I started to gain more contacts in the industry, through K1, Glory, and these organisations. Then MMA started growing and I was involved with organisations who used me as a PR guy. This was for love, not money, but I was always involved somehow in different organisations, but they were never my own. Then Pavol came to me and asked me to be his Dana White, with him as the owner and me as the promoter. I said no, we can work together, or nothing at all. And now here we are.

“So, while OKTAGON MMA officially started in 2016, the journey began in 1999.”


Image credit: OKTAGON MMA

Carving a Path in the MMA Industry

Reflecting on OKTAGON’s position within the industry, Novotny acknowledges the dominance of the UFC while expressing confidence in their unique approach. 

“UFC is the King, and everyone else is just trying to find their own path. We believe that ours could be a good path, but also in some ways we are unable to compete with the big ones, because Czech and Slovakia are too small. That’s why we have to go to Germany and now into other countries. We are still growing, it is getting better and better, but everything we invest is going back into the business.

“For us, it’s about fun. Pavol and I don’t care about the money, we want it to be an adventure. However, we believe that we know the pattern, and we know how it should be done in Europe.

“UFC will never be in Europe for more than 5 times a year because the market is too small. So, we believe that Europe is the sweet spot for us, perhaps the Middle East in the future, and this is what we try to concentrate on.”

Looking Ahead: OKTAGON’s Ambitious Plans

OKTAGON MMA's growth has not gone unnoticed. Recently, the promotion was nominated for Best MMA Promotion at the prestigious MMA Awards, with Novotny also making the shortlist for Leading Man. The promotion is gearing up for its biggest event yet, OKTAGON 58, set to take place in Prague's Eden Stadium, hosting 27,000 fans. The event will feature a highly anticipated rematch between Karlos Vemola and Attilah Vegh.

Later this year, OKTAGON will push the boundaries even further by hosting an event at Frankfurt’s football stadium, aiming to sell 55,000 tickets, potentially making it one of the highest attended MMA events of all time.

As OKTAGON MMA continues to expand its footprint across Europe and beyond, Novotny's vision and relentless pursuit of his dreams serve as the driving force behind the promotion's success.

Stay tuned to to keep up to date with the thrilling MMA action and fierce competition as it happens live from the arena floor.

Louis Hobbs
Louis HobbsLead Journalist

Meet Louis Hobbs, our esteemed authority on all matters sports-related. With a wealth of knowledge and experience, Louis effortlessly emerges as our go-to expert. His particular expertise in the realms of darts and snooker sets him apart and brings a level of insight that goes beyond the ordinary. Louis also holds a deep affection for all things related to US sports, with a special emphasis on basketball and American football, which stand out as his particular favorites. His content may not resonate with you, if you don't consider Lamar Jackson the most skilled player in the NFL.