Exclusive Layla Anna-Lee Interview:
Layla Anna-Lee is a TV presenter known to MMA fans for her work on UFC Connected and her presenting role with Cage Warriors. Layla has kindly giving me an exclusive interview:
Fightpost: Before you got into the MMA world what did you do career wise.
Layla: For the last few years I’ve been working mostly in football. I specialise in in-depth interviews and have been lucky enough to interview the likes of Messi, Neymar Jr. Cristiano Ronaldo, Pele & Beckham to name but a few. I’ve been blessed to have spent precious time with the greatest in the game and learn what makes them tick. My career has taken a few turns along the way but it was the Director Danny Boyle who really opened the door to the sports world for me when he chose me to narrate the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic Games. Having that on the CV helps heaps!
Fightpost: When did you become a fan of the sport and can you remember the very first fight you watched.
Layla: I’m half Brazilian. My family on my mothers side are from Belo Horizonte and as you know MMA is pretty big out there. Almost all my male cousins studied BJJ and a couple went on to fight at a fairly high level. I was always inspired by them and supporting them. One of my cousins took me to my first fight in Rio. It was a dirty, badly lit venue in downtown Rio where I was advised not to take anything I wasn’t prepared to lose. With a capacity of around 5 thousand this ex nightclub was filled to almost double that limit.
The atmosphere once inside wasn’t dissimilar to the passion that surrounds football in Brazil. The crowds were raucous and it was probably the most rough and raw MMA event I’ve ever been to. It’s the kind of place that would put most people off but I saw something in the octagon that night that had me transfixed. Post fight, a long, drawn out, well matched war, two bloodied men hugged. Both men spoke incredibly highly of each other and my mind was blown. How they could go from wanting to hurt each other so badly one minute to holding each other up to the crowd as a hero the next dumbfounded me. It was something I wanted to learn a lot more about.
Fightpost: Most MMA fans know from your work with UFC Connected, but in regards to Cage Warriors and the live shows, how much preparation do you have to do prior to the event.
Layla: I’m a stickler for preparation. I love to read and research fighters and I like to know as much as my mind can handle. However no matter how much you prepare you have no idea of what will happen in the octagon. So everything on our live show has to be reactive. Thankfully I have the best of the best by my side in the form of Dan Hardy. He’s literally the Nostradamus of MMA, three seconds into a fight he’ll tell me the fighter is looking for a head kick and two rounds later that’s exactly how the fight ends. Dan’s perfect predictions help me think ahead of the outcome. I’m learning from the best.
Fightpost: UFC Liverpool takes place this weekend, and while some may not realise its significance, BBC Radio 5 are broadcasting the main event live. It really is an important moment to a still relatively new sport.
Layla: It’s a first, literally. There’s no two ways about it and it’s shouldn’t be played down. It’s the first time ever the BBC will be broadcasting a UFC fight. It’s the first time ever that the BBC will be broadcasting an MMA event of any kind and that’s a pretty big deal. There’s a few reasons they’ve avoided it in the past and the fact they’ve decided to cross their line of fear shows a growing understanding of the sport. We are dying to show the public how intelligent and disciplined this sport is. The BBC on board with the UFC is an awesome combination!
Fightpost: You are working for the BBC during that broadcast, for you it must be a special moment.
Layla: Being part of any kind of first is pretty special, UFC Liverpool is already going down in the history books regardless of results. I’m over the moon to be helping tell the story. We’re all storytellers really and this is one hell of a script!
Fightpost: Going forward both MMA and your other work, where do you see your career in say 2 years time.
Layla: With the major changes to media broadcast and power of digital there’s no longer one show I aim for in the future. My personal aim is to remain a presenter who can transcend both TV and digital and enjoy every minute of every job I do. I’m lucky enough now to be able to choose the jobs I do and in two years time I see myself working closely with MMA fighters and creating new forward thinking content you haven’t experienced before.
Fightpost: What one thing would you change in MMA.
Layla: Right now, nothing. Change comes with time and growth. I’m not in a position to start spouting my opinion on changes just yet.
Quick Fire Questions:
Your Biggest Weakness:
Impatience, I need everything done for…yesterday.
Your Biggest Strength:
The independent ability to get shit done – if I want something I go and get it.
Your Biggest Regret:
I don’t have any. A truly believe that it all happens for a reason even if I don’t understand it yet.
Pulp fiction. Or anything by Tarantino.
The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch.
Favourite TV Show:
On Netflix I’m hooked to Brooklyn 99
Anything with Piers Morgan or Katie Hopkins. Please Dear God save us all.
Which Reality TV Show Would You Go On:
Strictly Come Dancing, although I’m not about to ruin anyone’s relationship and than seems like a pre-requisite for that show! (Caroline Pearce also said Strictly when I asked her the same question)
Fightpost: Layla thank you so much for your time, and good luck for the future, and hopefully we will speak again soon as your MMA career continues to develop.