Eight men and seven female fighters from different martial arts in Norway were chosen to travel to Thailand and compete in MMA rules to have the chance to become “Norway’s Best Fighter”. The only condition was that the contenders could not have a background in MMA before. In an interview, show creator Andre Moen said that in Norway professional Thai boxing and MMA is not allowed. “The government has forbidden any kind of professional martial arts” Moen said, “I think that there is very little knowledge and very much negative prejudices, they only think of it as brutal and violence instead of seeing it as a sport”.
Elias Stefanescu of GroundandPound.de caught up with one of the show’s female contestants, 20-year old Anna Tatjana Lie, and got her take on the show.
GnP: You are familiar with “The Ultimate Fighter” or “The Contender” (I hope). As you´ve seen those shows, what is the difference to NBF (Norway’s Best Fighter)?
Anna: NBF is very much like the other shows but the difference is that there will be a lot more documentary than a reality show, we hope that the show will change peoples misjudgment about martial arts.
GnP: World Champions from their own martial arts (high caliber athletes for example Muay Thai, Olympic Wrestling, Greco Roman Wrestling, Jiu Jitsu, Kickboxing, Boxing, Karate etc.) will try to learn MMA and fight each other?
Anna: Yes that is true.
GnP: Can you tell me what world class sports are in the roster of the show? If you´re allowed what champions/names etc. so that people can make themselves a picture of the whole concept.
Anna: On the female side we have world champions in Muay Thai (Fatima Pinto), Kickboxing (Tonje Sørlie) and BJJ (Margaret Aase). On the men side we have big names like Joakim Aardalen (Greco Roman Wrestling), Petter Juuhl (Thaiboxing and K1) and Daniel Nordaas (Kickboxing and K1) etc.
GnP: Was it hard to adapt the rules of MMA, because you for example are a Muay Thai fighter, and then you suddenly have to learn things quick and fight in MMA?
Anna: I have only been practicing Muay Thai for a year and a half, so I am still very adaptable to new things, so my biggest focus have been to learn the ground game of MMA. It has not been easy, but I work very hard to get it together with my standing skills.
GnP: What was the biggest challenge in the weeks you were there?
Anna: The biggest challenge was to keep the weight low, but still have the energy to performance my best on training twice a day, six days a week. I normally walk around weighting 60kg and fight in 57kg, but on the show the fight weight is 55kg and you never know if you will be the next person to fight for the elimination, so I had to make sure that I was always close to that weight.
GnP: The idea is not to make existing MMA fighter better, but to improve raw prospects from other/different martial arts, to make them MMA fighters. Is that correct? So its like the old UFC days when you had them competing in style vs style?
Anna: That is true, but the contenders had to learn things that they never had been doing before. Most of us have been taking MMA classes before the trip.
GnP: You are now one of the pioneers out there, that competed in the show. Are you proud?
Anna: Im very proud of the fact that I’m still a new to the sport and that I had the opportunity to fight the best female fighters in Norway.
GnP: The goal is to make MMA legal in Norway and to show politicians and enemies of the sport that fighters are normal people, not bullies and rowdy’s. Do you think it came through?
Anna: I really hope that it will come through, and I think it will.
GnP: Moen said he wants to make a second season if its successful and then go on from there to do Denmark or Sweden’s best fighter or maybe the huge one with Europes best fighter. Do you have any info on that?
Anna: I don’t have any info on that.
GnP: It was filmed on a total of 6 weeks, having the participants fight every 3rd day (so filming an episode every 3rd day). Was it a lot of pressure?
Anna: Yes, I guess many of the contenders felt some pressure under the show. I didn’t have the same pressure as the world champions had because I don’t have as much experience as the others, so therefore I had nothing to lose.
GnP: What does the winner get? What are they fighting for?
Anna: The winners get a one year professional contract with the promoter of “Rumble of the Kings” and 250.000 NOK.
GnP: How was your experience? What was especially easy and what was hard? What have you learned for your career?
Anna: I enjoyed it very much, and I will remember it for the rest of my life. The easy part was fighting, the hard part was to adapt my style to all the new techniques. I have learned that with a lot of hard work, determination, focus and a little luck you can achieve your dreams no matter how difficult it seems.
GnP: How hard was it being away from your loved ones for 6 weeks? No communication allowed etc.?
Anna: I have had all my focus on the show so Ii haven’t had time to think about my beloved ones, but it was good to see them again when Ii came home. We wasn’t allowed to have any internet or cellphones on any time at the show.
GnP: How can our readers imagine the show? You fly to Thailand, with a lot of other fighters, get your own room in a house and then train every day? What else, special fun days/trips/excursions or games in between?
Anna: It was like being on a training camp everyone had there focus on training, we did everything together so sort of became like a little family.
GnP: Would you do it again?
Anna: Yes no doubt.
GnP: Will it be only shown in Norway or do German or international viewers have a chance to catch up with the show?
Anna: The show will broadcast on Viasat4.no, so people have the chance to watch it online.
GnP: Will you go on with MMA or go back to Muay Thai?
Anna: For now I have all my focus on Muay Thai, but I can see myself compete in MMA in the future.
GnP: Thank you a lot for your time. Now you got the chance to tell something to your fans.
Anna: Thanks for all support I get from my family, friends and fans. I will continue to work hard to achieve my dreams and one day become a world champion. You can follow me on my blog.