This is number twenty-two in Jack Brown’s series of interviews with MMA fighters and personalities, and for this particular interview, we’re honored to feature the legendary “Veteran Voice of the Octagon” Bruce Buffer. One of the things that has made the Zuffa-era UFC a consistently enjoyable experience has been their dedication to tradition over the years. Whether it is the format of their events, the opening interviews at the beginning of their pay-per-views, or the music they use at the weigh-ins, you can rely on certain familiar comforts. But no thread is tied through so many events as tightly as the in-cage announcing of the one and only, 17-year mainstay, Bruce Buffer. When the UFC held its first event in Boston a few years ago, the long-time Boston Globe columnist, Bob Ryan, was mostly nonplussed about his personal experience attending UFC 118. Though he didn’t have much positive to say, he went out of his way to write about how moved he was about one particular aspect of the event – the announcing of Bruce Buffer. Ryan wrote, “I’d pay cash money for him to announce the bride and groom at the next wedding I attend.” That’s high praise, indeed. Please enjoy our conversation below.
Jack Brown: What was your first experience with martial arts/combat sports and can you tell me a little bit about your training in Tang Soo Do?
Bruce Buffer: My first venture into the arts was when I was 13, and studied Judo in Philadelphia and achieved a green belt. My family up and moved to Malibu when I was 15, where I became friends with two of Chuck Norris's black belts who lived there. I eventually achieved a 2nd degree black belt in Tang Soo Do. In my twenties, I wanted to play more in the real world of fighting and entered the world of kickboxing, which I loved. I was 32 when I suffered my second concussion and was ordered by the doctor to stop all heavy sparring, which I did. Since then, I've always continued to train in a variety of ways, plus maintained my love for surfing, while maintaining my flexibility, which is important as you get older when you begin to pay for everything you did to your body during your youth.
JB: You've been on board with the UFC since long before Zuffa purchased the promotion. What were some of the things that you noticed changing in the UFC once Zuffa stepped in?
BB: I always mentally bow to Dana White and Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta when I see them because before they took over, we were dying a slow death to becoming an underground sport, and they revived it similar to a Phoenix from Greek mythology. When they took over, I immediately saw and felt their passion to take both the UFC and the sport of MMA to mainstream sports, and I swore my loyalty to them. Believe me when I say that if they never bought the UFC when they did, we would not be having this interview right now. I cannot think of anyone who would have stuck it through and invested the time and money needed, along with their "Maverick" sense of business acumen that they applied, to get us where we are today and where we will be years from now internationally.
JB: What do you think have been a few of the key turning points in the UFC's evolution to what it is today?
BB: Aside from all the basics, they won the war with the success of The Ultimate Fighter TV show, allowing existing fans to get their share of UFC entertainment while bringing in millions of new fans who were able to experience the excitement of great MMA bouts inside the Octagon and get to know the fighters’ personalities. This also created future UFC role models for all to follow and become diehard fans of. Plus, there was their formula of being able to view fights monthly via free TV followed by pay-per-view shows. This is a proven TV formula that worked for both boxing and wrestling in their past days of glory as well as now. It was achieved by the UFC, but in a much more prominent way with daily doses of UFC action available on free TV for all to see.
JB: You've had a great seat at so many tremendous fights. What were just a few of the fights that blew you away?
BB: Honestly, I've forgotten more than I can remember, having announced and seen thousands of fights at Octagon-side. I have only missed two events in seventeen years of announcing the UFC, and there are tons of other MMA events I've announced. Some of the greats were fights such as the Randy Couture/Pedro Rizzo wars, the Griffin/Bonner TUF 1 Finale fight, the Dan Henderson/Shogun Rua fight, and just recently watching Wanderlei Silva and Brian Stann's war, in Tokyo, Japan. This is one of the things that keeps me going, that the UFC provides so much great entertainment that once I feel I've seen one of the greatest fights, within a short time, another one happens, and on and on and on. This keeps my passion consistently growing for what I do along with my huge respect for the fighters I have the honor of announcing.
JB: Who are some of the fighters, or other MMA personalities, that you've appreciated getting to know on a personal level?
BB: I have had the distinct pleasure of getting to know many. I consider many my friends as we have experienced so much together over the years. Fighters such as Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz, Rampage Jackson, Jon Jones, GSP, Urijah Faber, Randy Couture, and many others, just to name a few. My book "IT'S TIME!" is coming out in May, and has many stories about them that have never been told before.
JB: I love how your energy level rises with each fight as you approach the main event. How do you make sure to get that just right?
BB: I base all I do upon my passion, and it only gets higher and higher with each passing year. The moment I step into the arena, and feel the energy from the crowd, I feed off it all night long. I like to build each fight as I go on through the night with more excitement, leading into a crescendo of energy for the main event in honor of the two warriors who are about to put their blood, sweat, and honor on the Octagon floor for all to be entertained by. At that moment, truly, "IT'S TIME!"
JB: The UFC has taken you all over the country and the world. What have been some of your favorite places to announce the fights and to visit?
BB: This is one of the amazing parts of my job, the international travel and the experiences I receive. I enjoy and appreciate everywhere we go for what each country and city distinctly has to offer. UFC fans are amazing, and without them we are nothing, so to all I say, “Thank you for your loyalty and fandom.” It's always a blast to visit any major city in Canada or Brazil, plus Sidney, Australia, is one of the most amazing cities in the world with all it has to offer. There are any more countries and cities for the UFC to conquer, and I'm excited about what the future holds.
JB: It's well known that in addition to your many other ventures, you're kind of a big deal at the poker tables. What have you done to be able to take your game to such an advanced level?
BB: Whether in business or in sport, I've always believed that to up my game I need to train and compete with those better than me. The same rule applies to poker, and I've had the pleasure of playing many of the best players in the world. Whether I beat them or they beat me, I walk away from that table with more experience and a better game. The phrase that, "Poker takes five minutes to learn and a lifetime to master," is true.
The most fun money is money won, and whether there is small or big money on the line, you always need to stay focused as it only takes one mistake to lose it all in one hand. Just like in a fight, that one mistake can get you knocked out or submitted in seconds. Applying mental basics of fighting to poker play works, such as knowing when to be offensive and defensive and knowing your opponent's weaknesses and praying on them until you beat them down.
JB: I really enjoy listening to your Sherdog podcasts. What do you enjoy about recording them?
BB: Thank you! I have a blast on my "IT'S TIME!" podcast, working with my producer and co-host, TJ De Santis. There are many MMA shows out there, and mine is a lifestyles show where we talk about everything from the world of MMA and the UFC, to world events, to social issues, to my once a month "Sex & Relationships" show with my beautiful guest host, Ms. Sammy Phillips, who is a former Penthouse Playmate and a "sex-pert" who's had TV and radio shows for years here in LA. We get a little crazy at times on that show with all the listeners, who email or call in with questions to talk to us live about their issues, while also touching on many other popular topics of interest. We are live every Tuesday, at 2:00 pm (PST), and if I miss a weekly show, it is due to travel or business or poker.
JB: Last question, Bruce, and I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to do this. You have a book coming out in May. What are a few things that an MMA fan like me can look forward to reading more about?
BB: Thank you, Jack, and my pleasure to do so.
My book is titled, "IT'S TIME!" and it will be released in Canada and the USA by Random House/Crown Books on May 14th, and it is available for a pre-sale discount now at Amazon.com at IT'S TIME! Little Brown is releasing it in the UK and Australia, and soon a Brazilian publisher will be set to release it in Brazil, in Portuguese. The initial response from those who have read it has been amazing, and I'm very proud of the book. Like my podcast, I don't focus on just the awesome experiences that I've had announcing the UFC, most of which you've never read about on the internet. It also covers much, much more. I told myself that if I was going to write my memoirs, then I had to be able to tell it like it is and let it flow, or I wouldn’t even have started writing it.
The best way I can sum up the book is that it is about life, love, and the pursuit of happiness. “And Now... I think IT'S TIME I told you how I got here!"
Cheers to All!
Thank you so much for reading, and please follow @brucebuffer and @jackjohnbrown on Twitter, and check out www.BufferZone.net, and jackjohnbrownmma on Facebook.
Special thanks to @KirikJenness for @theUG
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