European mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion Oktagon has ambitions to become the “Champions League” of MMA and generate appeal and popularity across the continent as it gears up for its first UK event.

The series’ inaugural live UK offering will take place at Manchester's AO Arena tomorrow (November 4) which represents another significant expansion for the promotion after it recently entered the German market.

Oktagon was co-founded in 2016 by Pavol Neruda and Ondřej Novotný and claims to be “one of the fastest-growing MMA promotions in the industry”, having hosted 47 tournaments to date.

For the promotion, an inaugural event in the UK signals a major step forward in its growth plans.

In an interview with GlobalData Sport, Neruda has said: “Last year we expanded into Germany, but it's a place where people don't know the sport and look badly on it, so you need to start completely from scratch to sell the sport to the public. In the UK it’s a different situation, people know the sport and many like it. It's the perfect time [to enter the market].

"Expanding into the UK is one of the biggest steps we've taken so far. In Germany, we demonstrated that we can sell out the largest arenas that can accommodate more than 10,000 people.

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“We see big potential [in the UK] and want to be the best domestic promotion for English fans. That's why we are bringing the show multiple times per year, we will be back next year with four more tournaments. This will help us to grow and be a good domestic promotion in the UK and Ireland.”

Oktagon already has a broadcast deal in place in the territory having recently partnered with commercial network Channel 4.

Through the tie-up, all Oktagon MMA live events and shoulder programming are available to stream on Channel 4 and on the Channel 4 Sports YouTube channel.

The broadcaster has also aired the promotion’s two reality TV series – ‘Stage to the Cage’, and 'Oktagon Challenge: England vs Ireland’.

Earlier this year, global sports streaming service DAZN secured a deal with the MMA promotion which covers multiple territories but excludes Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia.

All events, meanwhile, are available internationally on Oktagon.TV.

The deals follow a record-breaking 2022, where the competition claimed to have had the largest combined attendance of all organizations that held shows in Europe, selling out arenas in the Czech Republic, Germany, and Slovakia. 

Oktagon has a vision to become the dominant MMA promotion in Europe and is seeking to replicate the global appeal of the UEFA Champions League club soccer competition.

Neruda said: “Our long-term goal is to be what the Champions League is for soccer, for MMA. It's a European product watched by the world and that's what we also want to achieve. As Europeans, we believe that we understand the specifics of this market and we can achieve this like nobody else in the world.

“We believe we can be number one in Europe and be the best in the world and attract hundreds of millions of Europeans. We want to go around Europe in a similar way to how Formula 1 [motor racing] does. So that's our goal, we know there is an opportunity here because the sport is still not developed and there is no other good promotion.”

In terms of other MMA promotions, Oktagon is competing with the likes of Ultimate Fighting Championship UFC), Professional Fighters League (PFL), and Bellator.

In a move to bolster its own market position, PFL is reportedly close to acquiring Bellator.

Despite the strong competition, Neruda believes Oktagon can separate itself from the crowd with a different proposition.

He explained: “It's a show that we are bringing, it's different and more entertaining. We are more storytellers than promoters [and] that's why we are putting so much money and energy into this project.

“Compared to Bellator, PFL, and UFC, our events are in a more favorable time zone. For the typical MMA fan, you need to be really core to watch it at 4 am, but this will be in the normal UK time. These are things that we will do differently.

“We feel we’re the only ones who are doing what we are trying to do. So even if we do have respect for other promotions, we feel that we are in a different field even compared to UFC.”

Oktagon’s strongest markets, in terms of fans and commercially, are currently the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Germany.

Neruda stated that the promotion’s most significant sponsorship and media rights deals are in these territories and believes the UK will be added to that “in one or two years.”

And the Oktagon co-founder is already eyeing new markets, beyond just the UK, for growth.

He said: “We know there's huge potential in France, people are ready to consume content. But there are also different countries we’re looking at. We consider Sweden as an interesting market for the future as well as other European countries.

“For now, we have to settle in and be strong in the UK, Germany, Czech Republic, and Slovakia, and then we can continue to different markets.”