Eight caged walls surround the Octagon, encircling the arena where ferocious and respected warriors battle to be the best. Enclosed in those caged walls is one man. One legendary figure in mixed martial arts and a staple of the UFC’s glistening history. That man is the Veteran Voice of the Octagon; Bruce Buffer.
Over his stint in the company lasting two decades, some of the world’s best fighters from all corners of the globe have stepped foot in the Octagon and have left dignified or disappointed. Some of the greatest moments in sports history have happened in that cage and left to be immortalised in the history books. Bruce, however, has been a mainstay in the realm of mixed martial arts. A distinguished personality, the face of the UFC itself, and beloved by millions of fighting fans around the world.
Bruce Buffer has announced at almost 400 UFC events, spanning across 131 cities and 21 countries. To say that Bruce is anything short of a legend is a huge and unjust understatement.
Fresh from announcing UFC Kansas and back in Los Angeles, Bruce kindly and openly agreed for an interview with me for All Out Attack and was eager to have a lengthy conversation.
“So Bruce, you’re the “Veteran Voice of the Octagon” and you probably have the most famous voice in the entire sports industry. At what point did you realise you could make a career out of your voice?”
“Well back some 25 years ago I started managing my legendary brother, who’s very popular of course Michael Buffer, known for the great phrase “Let’s Get Ready To Rumble!” And we had met late in life I met him when I was basically about 29 or 30 years old and I sold two businesses to take over his career, build his career and trademark the famous phrase and make all the toys and the video games, I wound up developing and producing out of it over the years. But right at the beginning I had always wanted to be an announcer because before I ever met him, as my long lost half-brother, I was watching him on TV. People always say to me, and of course him, “wow what a great job! You get to travel the world, dress in tuxedos, you meet beautiful women, you see all the great fights and all the after-parties” and I used to think that myself like what a great job. Well when I took over his management we agreed that I wouldn’t do boxing, you know that was not the place for me, and I said don’t worry something will come along. Me being in martial arts since I was 12, the UFC was the world for me so when it first came out I thought that’s where I wanted to be.
In my book; “It’s Time!”, I write about this detail but it took about a year and a half or more to be able to get that job and I just went for it. I realised that I had the voice but I needed to perfect the style and develop my own stick style, because I didn’t want to just be like my brother I wanted to be my own style and if I wasn’t going to do it, I was actually going to quit if I didn’t develop my own style. It all worked out! It’s a work of progress, every time you go out there is the only time you can rehearse. People ask me, “how many have you rehearsed?” Then just figure out how many UFC’s I’ve done and that’s how many times I’ve actually rehearsed. I’ve loved fighting from an early age.”
“You mentioned there of your love of MMA and you have quite an extensive background being a 2nd degree black belt in Tang Soo Do, green belt in Judo, blue belt in Jiu Jitsu, have you always had that love for mixed martial arts since you were young?”
“Yeah I always have. First off boxing was my first because my dad was teaching me boxing and my dad was a boxer and my grandfather was the flyweight-bantamweight champion of the world in boxing in 1921, and his name is Johnny Buff. I was always watching boxing, my dad was teaching me street fighting skills because he told me as a young boy when I go to school I’m gonna be picked on. Something’s gonna happen when the bully comes at you punch him right between the eyes and keep punching, whether you win or you lose, make sure you show them you’re gonna stand up for yourself so they won’t bother you again. And it did happen, absolutely, and I did exactly what he said to do and everything kept going forward.
I really enjoyed fighting from an early age, I wanted to learn every aspect of it, and my first start was Judo. I used to watch these movies, there was a great movie I remember with a movie star names James Cagney in the old days with a great Judo scene and I thought, how great would it be to toss people like that! Then I went into Tang Soo Do and other martial arts but I started full contact kickboxing because I wanted to fight for real, not just dojo point fighting. I carried that into my thirties but I had to stop at 32 which was my second, but really more my fourth or fifth concussion and the doctor ordered me to stop doing any sort of fighting whatsoever.”
“As well as the Octagon announcer you’re also a formidable poker player. In your opinion, do you get more of a rush from winning a hand of poker than being at a UFC fight or the other way around?”
“Both have their moments, shall we say? With that being said, UFC has its own style of excitement; to be there and watch these great warriors putting their blood sweat and tears on the Octagon floor is an amazing experience. I have a great seat for it and announcing them in the Octagon is an experience that I have a hard time describing, I wish you could experience it with me. It’s totally different being in the centre of the Octagon with ten to twenty to fifty thousand people’s energy coming at you. Staring into the eyes of these great warriors infront of me before they go at it against each other. But, being on a table, having a cash game and winning a big cash pot or being in a tournament and knocking somebody out for all their chips definitely has its own feeling of excitement, and when you win that money and pull that money in and take that money home; that definitely has its own level of excitement.
It’s kind of like kissing a beautiful girl Harry, it has its own level of excitement.”
“Speaking of the energy coming from the thousands of fans watching you, have you had an event where you have just been blown away by the crowd in attendance?”
“More than I can remember. Listen, when we go to the O2 Arena in London, when we go to Dublin or we go to Glasgow, all I can say is the UK fans, you guys love fights! You’re such a tough people, there’s no question, you’re such a party people and you love life so much and after a few Guinness somebody wants to throw down once in a while! The bottom line is that you enjoy fighting, you’ve been great fighting countries for ever in the history of the world. When we’re there doing shows, the excitement that you throw out is just staggering, I love coming over there and can’t wait to get to Glasgow, had a great time in London recently.
That stands true for every country that has its own flavour. The Canadians go crazy, the Brazilians go out of their minds! Every country has their own flavour which is part of the pleasure of enjoying announcing in different countries around the world with travelling the way I do.”
“Well I’ve been to MMA events before but the atmosphere at the UFC is something else.”
“Well put it this way, what’s your favourite soccer team? Are you a Manchester United fan or, what is your team?”
“Actually I support Wigan Athletic. They’re not the top level but they’re my local team.”
“But you’re loyal! So you know the excitement that happens when you go see your team. Here in America there are many [American] football teams whether it’s college or minor league teams but there’s nothing like the NFL. The UFC is the NFL of mixed martial arts, it’s the rocket ship that propels the way for everybody in MMA no matter what organisation. The bottom line is that you want the UFC to be as successful as possible because it’s paving the way for everybody and thank god for that. I’ve had fighters say to me when they’re offered that contract that it’s the best day of their lives because they’ve been waiting for me to announce their name in the Octagon and that really warms my heart because that’s the major reason why I’m there; the respect and love I have for all these great female and male fighters that we have.”
“Speaking of those fighters you have announced the likes of Chuck Liddell, BJ Penn and now Conor McGregor, all these huge names. Have you got a particular favourite fighter or favourite bout you have announced?”
“I have a lot of favourite fighters, I have a lot of favourite bouts, it’s impossible for me to say one is the best of all because as soon as I see one, two months later another one happens. You get great warriors like BJ Penn and Randy Couture and they come and they go in the Octagon. Then you have incredible warriors coming along with the ‘it factor’, people like Conor McGregor who is a once in a generation type personality. That’s the beauty of the sport because we always are in store for these new personalities and these new fights and events we have to look forward to.”
“Aside from martial arts and lets mention your book; “It’s Time!” which is also the same name as your podcast available on iTunes. What compared you to share your insights on the UFC in book form?”
“Well I always wanted to write a book but I wanted to write it at the right time. I could’ve written three books I have so many stories, I’ve seen so much both in my life with the UFC and my life in general. When I severed my knee, when I blew my ACL announcing George St-Pierre and Jake Shields there was a moment there when I thought, will I ever be the same again? Will I ever be able to announce and move the way I want to do to honour and glorify these great warriors standing in front of me? It kind of motivated me to write the book because I thought, well, maybe it’s time now to get this done. I took great pride in writing that book and maybe sometime you may see the next one, it’s been 6 years since that book came out, it’s a book that will last forever you can always read it even ten years from now and hopefully be entertained by it. I got great reviews everybody loves it that has read it which I am completely honoured by. I have so much to tell and I think there might be another one in the future. Maybe we’ll call it It’s Time…Again!”
As well as his acclaimed books, Bruce also hosts the “It’s Time” podcast and has completed 110 instalments to date and is moving to recorded podcasts on the Gas Digital Network for a small subscription and are accessible on brucebuffer.com.
He is a man who is closer to the huge events than any other person. He is amongst the fighters when they are at their most primal and is a staple in the industry. Bruce Buffer embodies the UFC and shares an insight like no other.
“We’d love to see that! Earlier you spoke of your legendary brother Michael Buffer, famed for coining the timeless catchphrase “Let’s Get Ready To Rumble!” You yourself have the renowned “It’s Time!” phrase, which is the best announcing catchphrase in your opinion?”
“I think Let’s Get Ready To Rumble will go down legendary as one of the greatest phrases in the world ever. We’ve certainly done so much with it, he’s done so much with it and “Let’s Get Ready To Rumble” would not be where it is without Michael Buffer and, to a degree, Michael Buffer would not be where he was without “Let’s Get Ready To Rumble” so they work hand in hand. But it’s all because of Michael, my end is the marketing and the direction of his career and the marketing of the phrase and everything we have done with it. In that respect, I have a lot to do with that too but I give all the credit to Michael.
They’re different. It’s kind of like saying which is better; boxing or mixed martial arts? They’re two fighting sports that you have to look at like apples and oranges and not so much compare, although it’s hard not to, but appreciate them for what they are. “It’s Time” has a whole life and feeling on its own and the reason I love the phrase “It’s Time” is because every time I wake up in the morning, It’s Time to be the best I can be. I used to say that to myself and it started to grow inside the Octagon. If you think of anything you can do in the world, whether it’s eat, drive, fight, you can put “It’s Time” in front or behind almost any sentence and it works. I challenge people sometimes, I go “say a sentence and if I can’t put “It’s Time” either side of it and make it work I will give you $1000.” To date I have not had to pay the $1000.”
“Speaking of the phrase “Let’s Get Ready To Rumble”, are you aware of the song by Ant and Dec that was massive over here of the same name?”
“I’m very aware of them and I did have to do a legal situation but yeah I dealt with Ant and Dec through my attorney and we handled that situation. Nobody can use “Let’s Get Ready To Rumble” or “It’s Time” in an announcing sense, I have that trademarked in England too, and you can’t use it without our permission. I deal with legal issues every week over violations of the trademarks. When you want something you have to protect it Harry, and when you don’t it can be taken away from you.”
“The last UFC event you were at was UFC Kansas where Demetrious Johnson picked up another win. Do you think he is the greatest of all time champion that many people brand him as?”
“I think he’s certainly up there in the top five greatest of all times. Jon Jones has been called that but because of his situations being out of the Octagon, I don’t think it’s fair to call Jon Jones the GOAT. Fedor Emilianenko is probably going down as the greatest heavyweight of all time. But I do think there is definitely room to talk about Demetrious Johnson being the greatest pound-for-pound fighter of all time. If he gets one more win he breaks the great Anderson Silva’s record so lets see what happens.”
“Do you think he should stay in the division to break the record or do you think he should move for that big money fight?”
“I think he should stay at 125lbs and stay as being great. If he wants to go up I think 145lbs might be pushing it too much, I can see him fighting at bantamweight but we’ll see. Just like Conor McGregor he walks the walk, talks the talk, if he wants to go for it and Dana White and the powers that be want it to happen. He’s pretty much running out of people to beat at 125lbs so he needs a bigger challenge! He can handle it, we’ll see what happens but let’s just wait for something to happen first. I don’t believe we will ever see a MMA undefeated champion in the Octagon but Demetrious could hold that mantle for five years more if he wants, so what’s wrong with being the most undefeatable person in one category?”
“There’s been a lot of speculation with the GSP Bisping fight and if it is going to happen, do you have any comments on that?”
“Insight wise I have to keep quiet but I will tell you that with my friendship with GSP and Michael Bisping, I believe it’s going to happen. I’m friends with both of them, I was texting George after I had heard the announcement and he can’t wait to be back. Basically his answer to me was that he can’t wait to share the Octagon with me again it’s been a long time.”
As well as being friends with the fighters, Bruce Buffer is also friends with the fans. He lives and breathes mixed martial arts and can empathise with the roaring and thunderous audience. He creates the atmosphere at the UFC events and galvanises the millions watching the event unfold. Bruce may not hold a belt or leaves the Octagon with another win on his record, but he still leaves victorious knowing he pours his heart and soul into creating an unreplicable aura before a fight for the spectators.
Despite not being a fighter, Bruce is one of the biggest legends in the sport of mixed martial arts and such a paramount figure among the Octagon. His eccentric and zealous tone resonates with the mixed martial arts universe and he should be celebrated.
So as the ever-present UFC events grace our screens, just think:
It’s Time for Bruce Buffer.
Catch Bruce Buffer’s podcast on iTunes and the Gas Digital Network and visit his website; brucebuffer.com to purchase your own recorded announcement from the man himself!