This time we’re giving you a man of many talents – Peter Linka – known as the first “voice” of FFC. When not involved in the whole FFC palaver Peter spends his time occupied with other lines of interest, all to be revealed in this interview.
For Fight Madness, here is Peter Linka!
Hello Mr. Linka, thank you very much for your time to do this interview.
Hi Milan. Why so formal? We’ve known each other for years and you always just call me Peter.
Please introduce yourself to our readers.
I’m an Australian of Hungarian descent, living in and working out of Budapest. I’m freelance, and I primarily work in the area of entertainment and the media. A friend once described me as a ‘renaissance man’, which basically means I do many things. Today, these are mainly hosting live events, ring announcing, voice-overs, acting, TV, writing song lyrics, and whatever else comes along.
How did you come to be the official FFC ring announcer?
As part of my work as a television presenter, I occasionally host demo or pilot versions of new program concepts. I’d met Orsat Zovko several times in conjunction with these, but I didn’t know much about him then, except that he was a television producer. Once, I did a TV demo for Orsat in Zagreb, and we went out to lunch afterwards. He told me that he was a K1 promoter who needed a ring announcer, and he thought I’d be good for the job. I told him that I regularly host corporate events, and many people had said that I have a ‘ring announcer’ type of style. So it seemed like a good idea that we should work together. Seeing as I’d never set foot in a ring before, Orsat invited me to Zagreb for the K1 World Grand Prix Final in 2013 to watch and learn from Michael Buffer. A month later, I hosted my first FFC event, FFC 3 in Split, Croatia. The rest is history.
You come from Australia, but you live in Budapest, Hungary. Why did you choose Budapest?
Originally, I went to Budapest to study. You see, both my parents are Hungarian. They fled communism in the 1950s and ended up in Australia. That’s where I was born and raised. A year and half after I graduated from university as an engineer, in 1987, I spent six months touring around Europe, city to city, country to country, and I simply fell in love with the cultural diversity of this amazing continent. After returning home, I realised that Australia was simply too isolated for me, too far from the rest of the world. At the time, I had a burning passion for drama and theatre, and the following year I received a scholarship to study at the Academy of Drama and Film in Budapest. That’s why I moved to Budapest: to pursue my passion. A year later, in 1989, Hungary opened its border to the East Germans, three months later the Berlin Wall came down, and the communist absurdity known as ‘Eastern Europe’ ceased. That was a fantastically exciting time to be living here. The sudden changes brought a wealth of opportunities, and Hungary became a ‘Little America’ for me. I started working with an Australian television producer, I began working on foreign film productions, I helped establish the first English language theatre in Budapest, etc, etc. I was doing the kinds of things that interested me, excited me, that I was passionate about. Over time, that lead to many great collaborations with people from all over the region, and eventually, I became entrenched here. Today, I feel more European than Australian; a true citizen of Europe.
You are an electronics engineer by profession. Do you still get involved with that line of work?
Yes, I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering. No, I haven’t worked in that profession since I left Australia.
Films mark another side-line for you, and you actually had the chance to work with numerous directors and actors like John Cusack, Viggo Mortensen and Brad Pitt. Can you tell us more about that?
Many foreign and Hollywood films are shot in Hungary. They often search locally for actors for various roles, and sometimes, I’m selected. The movie “Spy Game”, directed by Tony Scott (Top Gun, Days of Thunder, etc.), starring Robert Redford and Brad Pitt was one of the more ‘interesting’ ones for me. All I knew was that I had a scene with Brad Pitt. On paper, it looked pretty simple: “A man drags (Brad Pitt’s character) into a room, sits him on a chair, and starts yelling at him.” But there were was no dialogue. So when I arrived on location, I asked the assistants about my lines. One of them simply replied, “The director improvises a lot.” So, they had no idea either. Eventually, I got taken to the set where I was taught how to operate an old lie-detector machine. Next to it, sitting in chair, was Brad Pitt’s stand-in, and many lights were being meticulously focused on him. Then Brad Pitt arrived with a huge camera and started taking a million photos (that was his hobby back then). Soon, Tony Scott yelled, “Brad, in your chair!” The assistants took Brad’s camera, he and I said fleeting hellos, he sat in his ‘well-lit’ chair, and was connected to the all the wires and leads of the lie-detector, including the manual blood pressure meter that I had to pump up later. Tony Scott sat between us, and started firing off instructions: “Brad! This is part of your basic training in the CIA. Peter! You’re the CIA officer who trains all the agents on how to fool a lie-detector test. You’ve been doing this for years. The lines you say are completely emotionless…” That’s when I interjected, “Ah, Tony… Excuse me… but I didn’t get any lines.” He replied, “I know. There’s a girl calling the CIA right now…” At that instant, a girl walked in. Tony asked her, “What’d they say?” She told him, and he said, “Write it down!” She put a blank piece of paper on the table in front of me and started writing down my lines, by hand. When she’d finished, Tony said, “Let’s shoot this!” I asked if could have two minutes to read through my lines, but Tony just yelled, “Put ‘em behind the lie-detector and read ‘em!” So we started shooting the scene with me reading half a page of hand written lines, while operating a lie-detector machine for the first time, trying not to pump the manual blood pressure meter up to far for fear of destroying Brad Pitt’s bicep! After a few awkward takes, we stopped for a brief break while they made adjustments to one of the cameras. That’s when I had time to familiarise myself with my lines. Eventually, we did over 20 takes, including some highly improvised ones. At the end, Brad and I said hello to each other properly, he said that he really enjoyed the improvisations, we chatted a bit, and he went back to his trailer. He truly seemed like a completely down-to-earth, normal guy. But MAN was that a tough way to start a scene!
As an announcer, you have to look after your voice. How do you maintain it?
I don’t need ‘maintain’ my voice at all (I’m not an opera singer!). However, it is important to know how to use it. One thing I soon discovered when ring announcing: don’t yell from the throat… otherwise you’ll have no voice left for the main event!
Many people are oblivious of the amount of preparations needed for an event like FFC. How do you prepare? What is your workday like?
It’s more like a workweek. Living in Budapest, I’m far removed from the FFC team in Zagreb, so I regularly keep up with news on upcoming events on Fight Site and more recently on FFCPRO (and on Fight Madness too, of course!). Naturally, FFC co-ordinator Marko Petrak keeps me updated about fight card changes, but I usually wait till the Monday before the event until I start putting together the information on the fighters. (That’s because the biggest changes very often occur on the last weekend immediately before the event.) I have great respect for the fighters, and my aim is to give them all the best introduction possible, highlighting their most positive attributes and achievements. With 6 MMA and 6 kickboxing bouts, that’s 24 fighters I have to prepare for. And because of FFC’s format, I have to announce each fighter twice: once before they enter the auditorium, and again when both fighters are in the ring. So I need lots of info. I use several online sources as well as my own notes that I’ve accumulated over the years. I arrive at the event on the day of the weigh in, and from then on, I have the FFC team around to help. Marko Petrak and Ante Jurić are truly great guys, and even though they both have a million tasks at every FFC event, they always find time to help me ‘fill in the gaps’ with info on the fighters. And I also approach the fighters and their teams directly for additional information, if necessary. On the day of the event, I arrive at the venue well before the audience to do a sound check and camera rehearsal. That’s when I consult with Loris Eškinja, the television director of all FFC events. Loris and I share a great working relationship, and we really need to be in sync with each other during a live event like FFC. That goes for the whole FFC team, too. It’s like one big, well-oiled machine. It has to be, because at 8 o’clock, the show starts, and from then on, there’s no turning back!
Other collaborations include the mighty Glory. What are your thoughts and feelings on that?
That was just a one-off opportunity. Orsat Zovko and his FFC team were supporting the Glory World Series organization for the Glory 14 Zagreb event. Orsat suggested that I announce the undercard, and Glory accepted. It was a kind gesture from Orsat. He wanted to expose me to the Glory organization. (It was really funny because the Glory people just kept referring to me as “the Croatian announcer”. 🙂 Glory was very professional. Their crew helped me with everything I needed. What was truly great about the event, and a huge plus for me, was that I got to see Glory announcer Tim Hughes at work all night. He’s absolutely brilliant. One of the best, if not the best ring announcer in the world. He’s certainly the most versatile.
What do you prefer, MMA or K1?
I prefer good fights, with skilled fighters. And I quite enjoy 12 good rounds of boxing too.
What kind of person is Peter Linka when not in uniform, or working for FFC?
I’m always working on something, or thinking about working on something. My mind never stops making plans. Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not a workaholic, just a round-the-clock thinker. Yet I often just love lazing around and doing nothing. That’s probably when I do my best thinking. A great Hungarian poet, and thinker, once said, “True thinking, is thinking about nothing…” because that’s when your mind can start from zero and head off solely in one direction… any direction.
You also did some television work. Can you tell us what is it like to run a talk show?
I never ran a talk show, but I did host one. Like everything to do with television, it’s all about teamwork. From a PR point of view, the show is always linked to the host, but the true reason the audience tunes in is because of the guests. So you’ve got to have great people in the background working on getting great guests on the show. That’s the first key to a successful talk show. The second is how you talk with your guests. That can take two forms, depending on the nature of the show and/or the guests. The first is when the guests have great stories to tell. Then all you have to do is let them talk, while making sure they tell the stories you want to hear, within a set time frame. The second is when they’re uncertain about their stories, or don’t even realise they have interesting stories to tell. Then it’s a matter of asking the right questions, usually extremely frank and unexpected ones, that catch them off guard and make them say things they never thought they would. And hopefully, you end up being a compelling conversation.
As a prolific lyrics writer, how do you involve yourself into writing a lyric for a heavy metal band.
Ha, ha… Yes, I know you’re a metal fan. I haven’t actually written heavy metal lyrics myself, but I did translate the lyrics (from Hungarian to English) of three entire albums for Hungarian progressive metal band ‘Age of Nemesis’. The English albums were distributed internationally through USA based labels Sensory and Magna Carta. If you’re interested, “Fate’s Door” is one of my favourite tracks from the band.
You travel a lot. Is there a particularly saucy anecdote you’d like to share with us?
Sorry, but my saucy anecdotes are simply ‘too saucy’. You couldn’t publish them here.
Every time we meet, you seem to be full of positive energy. What is Peter Linka like when in a bad mood?
Alone… It’s best that the world doesn’t see me then. But that never lasts very long. You see, I’m a problem solver. So I’m usually on the move, working on a solution to whatever caused the angst, really soon.
I assume your line of business is stressful. How do you recharge your batteries?
When you’re young, stress can be like a drug: it gets you high, motivated, revving, on the go. As you get older, you come to realise that stress can still be like a drug: and if you overdose on it, like all drugs, it can kill you. So nowadays, I try to control the stress levels in my life and keep them manageable. I recharge my batteries by remaining normal and doing everyday things like drinking Czech beer and eating good food with good friends. At Christmas time, if I can, I like to travel to Australia to spend that very special time of the year with my family and old friends, enjoying a true ‘Aussie Christmas’ in the summertime. I know it sounds strange here in Europe, but that’s where I grew up: where Christmas marks the start of the summer break, after school has ended, work has ended, and everyone is relaxed and happy, enjoying Christmas and their summer holidays together. That is what will always remain a true Christmas for me. Going home to family and friends is always a great way to recharge my batteries.
Any hobbies we don’t know about?
Back in Australia, while attending university, I did Taekwondo for several years.
Describe yourself in three words.
I am me.
Hungary is a country of exquisite cuisine. What dish is your favourite?
My favourite Hungarian dish is “csirkepaprikás”. i.e. Chicken Paprika, the kind made with sour cream, accompanied by “galuska”, a kind of home made gnocchi.
Since Slovenia is so close to Hungary, please shed some light on the sightseeing locations not to be missed in Hungary.
I can’t tell you them all, but you definitely have to visit Budapest. Go up to Castle Hill and eat some pastries at the traditional old Ruszwurm Café and Pastry Shop. They’re scrumptious. While you’re up there, go out to Fisherman’s Bastion and marvel at the spectacular view of the Danube and the city sprawling majestically below. If you want to marvel at what Anthony Bourdain simply referred to as “architectural pornography”, visit the New York Cafe. You’ll be amazed. Check out the ‘yellow’ metro line, which runs just a metre or so below Andrássy Rd. It was the first underground railway on the continent. Just walk down a flight of stairs and you’re there. Visit one of Budapest’s ‘ruin pubs’, i.e. pubs set up in old, dilapidated buildings. There’s so much to see and do in this very safe and vibrant city.
For young people, Hungary has many great summer music festivals, which are attended by people from all over Europe. The main ones are the ‘Sziget Festival’ in Budapest, the ‘Volt Festival’ in Sopron near the Austrian border, and ‘Balaton Sound’ on the banks of Lake Balaton.
What form of work is your favourite?
Whatever I happen to be working on at any given point in time.
What is your life motto?
“ALWAYS WITH PASSION”… I’m fortunate, because I make a living doing things that interest me, excite me, that I feel passionate about. So whatever it is that I’m doing, one thing is certain: I’m always doing it with passion! See my website for more: www.peterlinka.com
Thank you for the answers! All the best.