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Andy Ogle has his share of what ifs, but onto next chapter as a prison guard

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The last time Andy Ogle fought in the UFC he was about fed up with the process of waiting. It had been eight months between fights, and he was ready to take out his frustration on UFC debutant Makwan Amirkhani in Stockholm. He was in the midst of a three-fight losing streak, which made the layoff excruciatingly long. Then things got worse.

Amirkhani hit Ogle with a flying knee right out of the gate, literally a second into the fight, and immediately set about attacked him on the fence. The referee, quick to the scene, stopped the action just as Ogle was fishing for a single-leg to show he was still in it. Eight seconds was all it took to end Ogle’s eight-month quest to redeem himself. At 25 years old, he had lost his fourth fight in a row. For every good redemption story, there are a dozen with abrupt ends. Ogle was cut a month later, on Feb. 16, which just happened to be his birthday. Amirkani arrived that night and made the media rounds, while Ogle walked out of that particular cage for good.

Now, he’s a prison guard in Newcastle, England. He traded one cage for another. These days he’s on the outside looking in.

**

Ogle was a decent fighter, not a great one. He was a cast member on The Ultimate Fighter Live (or, TUF 15), which featured a pretty nice collection of lightweights. He was pretty far down the pecking order on the show, selected second to last on Team Faber, but managed to upset Mike Rio before getting ousted by Al Iaquinta. He made the move to featherweight before making his official debut against Akira Corassani. He lost that fight, too, via a controversial split decision. His lone win in the UFC was a decision over Josh Grispi in London back in 2013.

Last September, after making the decision to turn the page, he began work at a Category C correctional facility as a prison officer. The categories are in place to determine the risk of escape by the inmates, and C has its share of sordid characters out in Newcastle upon Tyne.

"There’s like murderers in there, and rapists and everything," he says matter-of-factly. "It’s a totally different world. I don’t know, no two days are the same. It’s pretty wild, and it’s pretty cool. My parents always say to me, because I used to work the door [bouncer], that I went from working the door to fighting for a living and now I’m a fucking prison officer, my mother was like, ‘you really don’t want me to sleep at night.’ I’m like, no, no, I just like doing different things."

Ogle is 27 years old, and he finds a different kind of fulfillment in his new occupation. His fresh beginning is reflected somewhat metaphorically in his work. Everyday he shows up and spends time around people, most of them young and under-educated, waiting for a second chance of their own. Hoping for a second chance. Having nothing to live for but that second chance. Some of them don’t honestly believe they deserve one.

And Ogle sees it as his duty to help provide scaffolding for the wayward souls he interacts with. 

"You’re trying to help these people move on," he says. "Some of these guys are saying, f*ck this place, this place is shit, I hate it, and I’m never coming back. And I say to them, well, what’s the plan? They say, ‘I’m just not coming back, Mr. Ogle.’ And I say, ‘that’s not a plan.’

"A plan is short-termed, like, when I get out, I am going to do my driving test, and I’m going to get myself a car. And I’m going to be in a hostel, and when I’m in the hostel, I’m still going to be looking for cheap apartments around me. And I’m going to looking into getting into this work, because that will keep me from stealing. That’s a plan. Telling me that you hate the place and you’re not coming back because you don’t like it, that’s not a plan."

Ogle empathizes with the inmates, whom he sees as, "people who just haven’t thought of the consequences of their actions, people who’ve been too easily led." He says he gets more out of his job as a warden than he did as a prizefighter. He can do his best to instill a sense of personal value and esteem to the people who could use it. The pedestals are different, too. If he knocks somebody out in fighting, there’s a short-lived celebration of his power and a brief thrill as to what comes next. By the next fight, as Ogle knows well, that could all be gone.

If he helps improve an inmate’s attitude towards life, he has done something far more productive. Sometimes, he just wants to show them humanity. It’s tough, when so many believe they are worthless.

"I’ll see them in a visit and their mother’s calling them a piece of shit and whatnot, and I’m thinking to myself, how can I expect him to talk to me with respect and good manners when his mother talks to him like a dog?" he says. "You just try to instill some self-respect. If you talk to me nicely, I’ll talk to you the same as you talk to me, and we’re going to get on well. The only thing we’ve got, the best thing, is words."

In those long shifts on the cellblock, Ogle sequesters his feelings about the way things played out in fighting, too. He’s moved on, but it’s obvious he wants to liberate those feelings, too. To set them free, and direct them the right way. One day, he says, he hopes to be the governor of the prison.

"I want to delegate," he says.

UFC on FOX 14 photos
(Esther Lin, MMA Fighting)

**

"That knee actually hit my ribs, like lower chest, and it didn’t really hurt," he says of the knee Amirkhani hit him with. "Then the uppercut, I was going back so it put me on my ass. Then I put my hands on the floor, and I went to go get myself back up and I was going to get him with the single-leg, the f*cking ref’s there, and I’m like — for f*ck’s sake. He totally screwed me. He ruined it. I kind of just felt empty, I kind of felt a bit numb from it. I tried so hard for this."

Ogle left fighting on that note. A premature stoppage. A stillborn redemption story. It’s obvious he feels helpless about that outcome still, that everything was left unresolved, even if ultimately the loss coughed up a share of silver linings. There was a flood of reality that went into his decision to simply walk away.

"When I first started fighting, I loved fighting," he says. "It was all I ever thought about. Hindsight is kind of 20/20. I never really needed it. If you make it really well, you’ll be able to pay your way. But unless you’re the no-point-one percent, there’s got to be life after it. There’s been a lot of fighters, who’ve had a lot of head trauma and the resulting factor is that life afterwards is slurred speech. You’re putting a lot of risk even trying to make it. You’re putting all your eggs in one basket. For some guys, it’s because they’ve got nothing else. For me, it was because I loved to do it."

Ogle thinks about the what if’s. There are many of them. What if he had got the nod against Corassani, like he should have? What if the referee had let him recover a half-a-second longer against Amirkhani, like he should have? What if he had been able to go through with that fight with Conor McGregor? Remember that? He was booked to fight the UFC’s biggest star back at UFC Fight Night 26 in Boston, when McGregor first came to the States, but he had to pull out with an injury, giving way to Max Holloway.

And while on crazy flights of fancy, what if he had sprung an upset over Conor McGregor?

"It would be different on so many different levels," he says. "Everything happens for a reason. Fedor [Emelianenko] went through it, and loads of other fighters went through it — Anderson Silva went through it. You know, the unbeatable patch. When I was going to fight Conor, he wasn’t part of the unbeatable batch, he was paving his way to being that, a superstar."

Ogle contemplates what might have happened, though, had he got the chance to tear through the pavement. It’s a pipe dream, but still…   

"It could have been a different time if I had got him," he says.

The less glamorous side of the fight game. All those what if’s.

**

"So now I’m a prison officer, and I’ve got to kick ass in a different way," Ogle says. "Still with love, and still with devotion. Still with a lot of care. Guys here are being dragged up, they’re not raised. If I didn’t compete in martial arts when I was younger, it could have been me."

Ogle first stepped in the cage in Edinburgh, Scotland, when he was 20 years old. He won eight of his first nine bouts, from Gateshead to Liverpool. That opened the door to the UFC, to TUF, to the cellblock.

"A lot of these guys just made stupid mistakes," he says. "They didn’t know how to navigate their aggression or their testosterone. A lot of them are like, Mr. O, boss, boss, boss, I wish I had gone down that path. And I say, when you get out, just start doing a little bit of kickboxing and keep yourself on the straight and narrow."

To get on the show, Ogle took out a guy named Brendan Weafer. That got him in the house. The house that, from anybody who has been part of TUF, has come to be known as a prison in its own right.

"I supposed if you asked my fiancée, she’d say I’m happier now," Ogle says. "There’s no stress. When you’re doing it just for the craic, just for shits and giggles, it’s a totally different story. When you’re fighting for fun, it’s just for fun. When you do it and you need to get the paycheck, and you don’t know when it’s going to come, and the UFC is dangling you on a piece of string, it’s kind of f*cked up. They’ve monopolized the game so much, and they’ve also bent the rules so much. Conor McGregor gets away with a lot of shit that he wants."

The UFC decided to give all 16 contestants from Ogle’s season contracts into the UFC, some of whom are still there. Some of whom are still fighting elsewhere. Some of whom might never belonged. In a weird way, that was the realist the reality show ever got — going live, and throwing the entire cast into the water with all the sharks.

Ogle misses things about fighting. The dictation of wills in a cage, even when you’re the one taking the dictation.

"There’s nothing more primitive and real than competition," he says. "There’s no realer sport. You can put fireworks around it and try to glamorize it, but what it is is two guys going in there, and one guy getting his hand raised. It can’t be put any other way.

"The sport itself, and training itself is good, but everything in between is screwed up."

**

Some fighters have fighting and that’s it. Ogle, a decent but not great fighter who made a little name for himself in the UFC, didn’t accomplish everything he wanted to. Most fighters never do. But accomplishments are not confined to the cage. Or at least, not a specific one.

If the only thing we’ve got, the best thing, is words, then we must consider all definitions. Redemption, for instance, can mean several things.

"I didn’t want to be like, this is my story, I was…" he says. "I want it to be like, this is my story, this is what is. That was a chapter, and the next chapter is I’m an officer, and I’m thinking with the same dedication, the same determination, there’s nothing to say I can’t change a few people’s lives in the prison."