Interviewed by Karen Touma ( @KarenTouma )
It is no wonder that after being the official announcer for the UFC over the last 15 years, Bruce Buffer is known as the “Veteran Voice of the Octagon”. His catch phrases such as “It’s time!” and signature moves like the “Buffer 180” are some of the best known and are mimicked by people around the world (including me!).
Bruce has a humble and gracious presence in and out of the Octagon. He is one of the most highly respected names on the MMA/UFC scene. After having the chance to speak with him I can certainly vouch for that.
Long before he had any involvement with the UFC, Bruce Buffer was involved in martial arts, training in Judo at the age of 12 where he achieved a green belt.
The legendary Chuck Norris came out to train his good friend Steve McQueen that he started to train in a Korean style of fighting called Tang Soo Doo.
His training did not stop there. Bruce has not only trained in Muay Thai kickboxing, he has also been awarded a belt in Jiu-Jitsu.
Although his passion and love for martial arts ran deep, Bruce never wanted to turn pro. He would have welcomed a chance to have one pro fight on his record but that dream was never to eventuate.
As fate would have it, he has remained in the MMA industry, not as a fighter but as an announcer for the UFC.
Bruce was kind enough to take some time out and speak with me to talk about all things MMA. So, without further ado and as Bruce would say “This is the moment you’ve all been waiting for,” and finally, “It’s time!” … Here is the interview you’ve all been waiting for.
Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to have a chat with me, it’s very much appreciated.
Not a problem
The UFC returned back to the roots of MMA for UFC 134 in Brazil. How was that experience and did it differ from any other UFC events that you have attended?
I’ve done every UFC event for the last 15 years and the experience in Rio was a historical experience that basically showed on an international level that we have gone to the next level and for many reasons.
UFC 129 in Toronto where we appeared in front of 55,000 fans and the show sold out in a few hours.
Now we have gone onto another level were we have a show in the historical birthplace of Vale Tudo and mixed martial arts in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil where we have 15,000 fans and the show sold out in 77 mins. Those 15,000 fans sounded like 50,000 fans.
What was even more spectacular and blew me away was when I went into my “It’s Time” during the Main Event, the entire arena recited back to me at the exact same time with my inflection – “It’s Time”. It was is amazing because I have never seen that happen with any announcer in sports anywhere.
The fact of the matter is that this was a country where people don’t speak English and yet they are talking back to me in English. It was an amazing, amazing compliment.
You started announcing at UFC 8, how did you get involved?
I originally managed the career of my brother, the famous “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble” announcer, Michael Buffer. I was putting Michael into every area of sports and entertainment back then as I still do today.
I called the UFC and arranged for Michael to announce UFC 6, 7 and Ultimate Ultimate. We had a conflict of interest with WCW wrestling league and therefore I couldn’t have him announce anymore due to the fact that he had such a huge contract with WCW.
I tried to get them to hire me at that time but they wouldn’t. I thought, “how do I do I get this to happen and how can I get the attention of the owner Robert Myer”? Therefore, I managed a fighter named Scott “The Pit Bull” Ferrozzo in the UFC 8, Puerto Rico.
When I was flying down to Puerto Rico I called the owner and I said “look, I’m bringing down my tux, let me show you what I’ve got and let me announce the preliminary fights”. So he let me come down and announce the preliminary fights at UFC 8. They didn’t hire me after that.
They called me back for UFC 10 on a two-day notice, which I went and did the entire show, I thought they would hire me after that but they didn’t.
I then got a call from the UFC asking me if I wanted to be on the hit US TV show Friends and co-star as myself as the announcer for the UFC. I agreed, but when I got them on the set I told them that I have tremendous media contacts and that I have been helping promote the UFC. I wanted to promote it to be one of the biggest things that has ever happened in sports, but in order to do that properly and to keep my passion flowing, I wanted to be the announcer and I want to announce every UFC.
There I was on the biggest comedy hit network TV show in America. John McCarthy and Tank Abbott were on all co-starring as ourselves, people were going to think I was the ring announcer. Why not make sure that I am the announcer? He agreed with me and we made a deal right there.
It was the best poker hand I ever played in my life.
You’ve just spoken a little about your brother, Michael. What is your relationship like with him?
Very strong. Michael and I are long lost half-brothers. We met about twenty five years ago and four years after that I took over Michael’s career and started managing him. I believed the famous five words needed to be trademarked properly and that there were avenues to create toys, video games and other ventures in movies and TV, which has never been done and nobody tried to do. So, I put that all together. We have had an incredible partnership, and my management to him has been great for all these years.
I recently did an article on UFC rivalries. In all your years, which rivalry has been your favourite?
There is a couple that are fun to watch but I like the rivalries that talk crap about each other and get on each other’s nerves. I like it when it is for real because then I really know it is meaningful.
One of the most classics of all time is the original fight between Ken Shamrock and Tito Ortiz.
That was one of the best rivalries I have ever seen. From the trash talking to the promotional aspects of it to the way the fight panned out that night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, which is probably at that moment a historical moment. It was again, the highest energy of crowd participation that I have seen at the UFC to date.
Oh! And Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell
The UFC had a few incidents with fighters and hormone replacement therapy. What is your opinion on that and any form of illegal substances in the UFC?
I don’t condone it at all. I think if you are out there to perform you are out there to perform with your God’s gifts that you were given at birth. Its the way you train, the way you develop and the way you mature yourself as a fighter and as an athlete.
I think it should be on an equal playing ground all the way around so I am completely for drug testing and completely for those items being banned.
I don’t think they are healthy for a fighter because one thing that a lot of these things do are give you bursts of energy but they don’t give you long term energy for what you need to go through a five round fight.
It’s not fair for somebody to have that advantage over somebody that is training hard and working with their natural talents.
You obviously travel a lot which would take its toll, how do you keep fit and more importantly is there anything special you do to keep your voice the way we hear it at each event?
I have been an athlete my whole life. I eat healthy and I train regularly.
When it comes to my voice, I have a couple of little things I use; if I am in a spa area like Las Vegas, I love to take a good steam during the day which is great for your throat. I make sure I don’t damage my throat with anything like smoking. I do the best I can to keep my throat healthy.
When I am at the show, I always keep a cup of pure honey right beside me and a simple half teaspoon of honey does the trick. It soothes the vocal chords and it’s one of the best things you can do. Other than that I have done shows sick, I’ve done shows coming out of laryngitis, I’ve done it with a 103 degree temperature, I’ve done it with a blown ACL, I’ve done it with a sprained back .
My adage is that the show must always go on. I am not fighting, so I don’t have anything to complain about. Those guys deal with a lot more than I do as an announcer and there is no reason I can’t perform every night that I am there.
Well, I for one love and appreciate your commitment. I think you are absolutely fabulous and I have been a big fan of yours for a very long time so I would like to say thank you!
Thank you so much!
I often find myself having to defend MMA to people who are uneducated. They claim that it’s too barbaric or whatever the case may be. If there was anything you could say to those people, what would you say?
When I get into this situation with people and a lot of that comes from pure ignorance. Perception is reality, so if they are in the 18 – 34 age group the first thing I ask them is “do you enjoy boxing?” and if their answer is no then they just don’t like fighting so I don’t really try to take it to any other level. If they are interested and want to know more about it, then I will answer their questions.
If they are into boxing the next thing I say is “Have you ever watched an entire UFC event – not the old days but recently?” If they say no, then they have nothing to work from so what are they talking from? They need to watch one show and then I can have a conversation with them otherwise they are talking out of ignorance.
I think if you are a fight fan even in the world of boxing, you become totally addicted to it. Boxing is a grand sport and I am a huge fan. Marquess of Queensberry rules, two weapons, it’s an art to itself. They are two separate forms of fighting and they are two separate sports.
In the MMA field you are dealing with over 40 weapons, so it is a matter of understanding but also at the same time, if you watch a UFC, you see such exciting fights unless you are unwilling to change your opinion like Jim Lampley [HBO commentator], who will not do anything to change his opinion because he doesn’t want to.
Then you talk to a boxer named Bernard Hopkins who is one of the greatest boxers of all time. He recently attended the UFC, [and] was previously talking down on the UFC making very derogatory remarks and not accepting of it. When I saw him at the fight he said, “You know what changed it for me? I trained with the fighters. These are the greatest fighting athletes in the world. a boxer will not survive in the Octagon as well as an Octagon fighter Champion will not survive against a champion in the squared circle of boxing”. I fully agree with him there. There are exceptions to the rule, but as a rule boxers will not win an MMA fight and a Champion MMA fighter will not win against a Champion of boxing.
So it’s just where you are coming from. I don’t want to explain to hard. If they are interested, I love talking about it. If they are not, it’s a waste of time.
That’s generally the approach I take. At the same time, I do my best to try and at least educate them a little bit about the sport, but sometimes you just can’t change people’s minds. If they’re not willing to be open about it, so be it.
We do that out of passion and a love for the sport, but again, it all depends on the individual that we are talking to.
Thank you again for your time Bruce; it has been a pleasure talking to you.
You’re very welcome Karen. Make sure you come and say ‘hi’ to me when I’m next down there [in Sydney].
Absolutely. I look forward to it!
For further information on Bruce and details on his radio show, “It’s TIME!” please visit http://bufferzone.craveonline.com