Meet CJ O’Donnell
Thanks to Chakir N Dahmani for use of this photo. www.chakir14.com
BritFights love speaking to Fighters and covering events but we also love talking to other people involved in the MMA industry, after all without the presenters, judges, commentators, MC’s etc. the fabulous shows the promoters put on would literally be just two fighters in a cage. That in itself is often entertaining enough but we want to cover the whole industry so we caught up with Cherelle Jay (CJ) O’Donnell to find out more about her life inside and outside of MMA.
Firstly, Cherelle Jay wants us to know that she much prefers her full name rather than the nickname CJ, that we all know her by. She says she has her own reasons for this but so as not to upset Dave O’Donnell who, for those that don’t know, is Cherelle Jay’s Dad, she is happy to be called CJ! CJ is twenty years old and has incredibly been a fan of MMA since she was just three years old.
At any UCMMA or WCMMA event, CJ can be seen presenting the shows alongside Dave O’Donnell and Jason Barrett. But although today she is much more confident in her abilities, back when she started out it was a whole different story. She tells us that she prefers not to remember that time but goes on to say that she ended up in the closet at the front of house having a cry and feeling sorry for herself. She says she was very nervous and completely camera shy to begin with but soon realised that half of the fighters were more nervous about speaking than she was so it made things a lot easier for her. She also tells us that at first she was interviewing backstage so had the chance of re-takes but now being in front of an audience means there is much more pressure on her.
Having been involved with MMA for so long I wondered if CJ has a favourite fight of all time but she tells us, she can’t possibly pick just one as there have been endless fights that have amazed her. She goes on to tell us that she is a lover of a good KO so Jimi Manuwa’s left hooks and Jamaine Facey’s flying knees are definite favourites. More recently she remembers Michael Page and his dancing skills that led to the spinning back kick! CJ also mentions fighters such as Iain Martell and Tony Giles as guys like them make her job a lot easier as they ooze confidence and always have something interesting to say plus the cheeky banter after a win is also something CJ loves.
When you have the less confident fighters, CJ tells us that it is the most difficult part of her job. She says when the fighter doesn’t have a lot to say it makes it look as if she is unprepared or as Dave would say ‘being mugged off’. But she points out that she has learned how to deal with it by not challenging them but to just finish off the interview as soon as she can without making them say anything they don’t want to. She tries to end any interview on a high to match the win.
Working with family doesn’t always work so how does CJ cope? She tells us that it is amazing and says as much as she wants to try and keep it to Cherelle Jay; she is a true O’Donnell and loves what her Dad has done to help the sport become what it is in the UK. Her Mum, Mel is very supportive as is everyone else in the family. And as CJ points out, there is a lot of stress before a live event but they all stick together as a unit and make UCMMA as strong as it can be. There is one down side that CJ has told me about in the past and reiterates again. She tells us that she often gets ‘OMG you are Dave’s daughter, is he going to beat me up if I speak to you’!!! Guess you will have to talk to her to find out as she is keeping that answer close to her chest!
Other than working for UCMMA, CJ is an actress and dancer so is a very busy lady. She tells us that dancing has always been her main interest but that she really enjoys the presenting now. Last year she danced on the X Factor for Cher Lloyd which she says was a great experience and she has also danced on countless music videos. Eventually CJ wants to be in a girl group, making music and touring the world and she tells us that this WILL happen. So remember you heard it here first!
With a life dominated by MMA and fitness in general, I wondered if CJ had ever trained herself and she says that if she had six months where she had nothing else on that she would love to train seriously and have a fight for charity. She goes on to tell us that the training is intense and she admires any woman as well as any man that puts the work in.
Being a woman in the industry is sometimes tough as it is such a male dominated environment but CJ says although there is always something for women to prove and being a part of the sport is challenging, she finds it keeps her on the ball and says most of the fighters are really welcoming.
Although, I shouldn’t really ask, I did want to know if CJ has a favourite fighter or if she has to stay neutral. But thankfully she tells us that it has to be Brad Pickett or Jimi Manuwa because she has watched them since they started out. More recently she would opt for Louis King, Corey Tait and Michael Page as they are so great to watch. In general there are so many great fighters around that right now CJ tells us she is always entertained.
Presenting at live events that go out on Sky Sports must be daunting and take a fair amount of preparation so we asked CJ exactly what she has to do to be ready. She tells us that she does as much research on the individuals fighting as she can, concentrating on any rivalry leading up to the fight as this makes her job easier on the day. When it comes to White Collar MMA, CJ tells us it is nice to see the semi-professional fighters come into the cage for the first time and to see what they can do.
UCMMA is her favourite, and she admits to being bias saying it is a great night out for everyone with a buzzing atmosphere which makes her LOVE her job. So whether it is Cherelle Jay or CJ that you prefer, make sure you get yourself down to an event to see her in action. You won’t be disappointed and when she makes it to the big time, you will be able to say ‘I’ve seen her live’. Until next time, all that is left is to say thank you to CJ.
For more information of UCMMA or WCMMA events visit www.ucmma.tv