IT'S TIIIIIME for an interview with the UFC's Bruce Buffer
He’s the voice of the UFC and Bruce Buffer chats to JOE ahead of UFC 152 on his own business career, Jon Jones, the UFC’s return to Ireland and the best nicknames in Irish MMA.
He also chats about his relationship with his famous brother Michael Buffer of “Let’s get ready to rumble” fame, Dana White and Joe Rogan, all in an exclusive Irish interview ahead of what promises to be a spectacular card in the UFC this weekend.
JOE: First of all Bruce everyone knows you as the voice of the UFC, but you started off managing your brother and fellow announcer Michael Buffer of “Let’s get ready to rumble” fame.
There’s a pretty interesting story there because you’re half brothers and didn’t meet until later in your lives....
Bruce Buffer: Yeah, Randomhouse Publishing is publishing my memoirs which will be out in the UK and Ireland next year and will go into depth into the story.
Basically me and Michael are long, lost half-brothers, we have the same father and we discovered each other around 25 years ago and shortly after that, maybe four years after, I started to manage his career because he was great at what he did.
I had this vision of making him the preeminent sports and entertainment announcer, not just in boxing... he was already established...but outside of it into every sports and entertainment event possible.
We trademarked the “Rumble” catchphrase and made toys and videogames and everything we’ve done since then, it’s just been a really grand and amazing historic adventure.
JOE: We’ve heard a few figures over the years regarding the money made from trademarking “Let’s get ready to rumble,” and obviously now your own catchphrase “It’s time,” has taken on a life of its own, would you care to make an Irish audience jealous and tell us a ballpark figure of how much you and Michael have made out of those phrases?
BB: [Laughs] Well this isn’t in my pocket but in the retail sales and the products and licences I’ve created we’ve sold over $425million.
JOE: $425million from all that?!?
BB: Yeah, you know video games, toys, movie mentions all that kind of stuff...
JOE: It’s also interesting that you started off managing your brother, but according to the UFC Official Encyclopaedia you felt an affinity to MMA and you wanted to announce it. So you hustled, you got in and it turns out that you’re as good as your brother, or better in the eyes of some MMA fans, in terms of announcing...
BB: [Laughs] Well my brother is the greatest of all-time and he brought a style and a James Bond-type image to the ring that was never done before... and I entered the business never wanting to be Frank Sinatra Junior.
It’s just my love of performing in front people and my love of fights, because I had been at fights since I was a kid, including my own endeavours... and with that being said I wanted create my own little historical situation.
I love MMA and I wanted to help it grow and publicise it and I had visions of it being the biggest sport in the world and luckily when Dana White and the Fertitta brothers took over the UFC , because of their passion, their vision for the UFC and their business acumen we have got there, but we still have ways to go.
History is being made now and I’m so proud because I have the honour of being on this team and having a first-class ticket on this UFC freight train going uphill.
It’s amazing; I can’t begin to tell you how amazing it is...I mean when you see the fans, who give so much back to us, especially the fans in the UK and Ireland, they’re absolutely rabid about the UFC!
We get so much respect over there and I’m looking forward to getting over UFC Nottingham in a couple of weeks, because it’s an absolute joy.
JOE: Yeah and there’s one guy on the card who has trained a lot in Ireland on that card Gunnar Nelson and we can expect big things from...you mentioned the pinnacle that the UFC is at now, but you were there in the dark times too and was there any stage prior to the Zuffa takeover or even during it where you found yourself saying “I’m not sure there is light at the end of the tunnel as much as I’d like there to be...”
BB: Oh absolutely I’d say the last two years before Zuffa took over in 2000. The last two or three years we got to one event and I detail this in my book very closely where Kevin Randleman, the wrestling monster, was fighting.
We were down in Louisiana and there was lull, with maybe 1,800 fans in the audience and in the microphone in my ear they told me Kevin stepped on a pipe in the back and knocked himself out and had to be taken to the hospital and we had no main event.
I had to tell everyone that and I was just preparing myself for cans and bottles to be thrown into the Octagon. It seemed like the lowest point and despite my love for the sport and my dreams I thought “You know what there’s a chance the whole thing will go underground” because it’s not being managed properly or correctly and it took the Fertitta brothers and Dana White to come in to make it happen.
JOE: Absolutely and I suppose the success could be seen at UFC 100 which was a landmark occasion with Brock Lesnar, an undeniable box office draw whether you like him or not. The speculation beforehand was to whether Bruce Buffer would knock it up to 11 with his announcing and you certainly did do that with your 360.
Did you plan to do that beforehand or did you just get wrapped up in the occasion?
BB: A combination of all of all of the above because Joe Rogan [UFC commentator] was always kidding me saying “You do a 180” – you know that move I do when I spin from blue corner to the red corner when I’m announcing – and Joe said “What can you do to top that?” So I said I could do a 360.
He then did a video on it that went viral on the internet and then suddenly I’m getting hundreds of e-mails saying “When will you do it?” so I said “If I do it, I’ll do it at UFC 100...”
So I held it until the end and then I pulled it off in front of Brock and then retired it that night because if you keep doing it you’ll just wear it out.
I’m always doing something wild. You know I never rehearse, I just feed off the energy of the fans and I surprise them with things and even myself because I do it at the spur of the moment.
That’s where the passion comes in because it’s exciting and why the job is exciting. When it stops being so that’s when I step down and retire.
Credit: Joe Rogan (YouTube)
JOE: I was watching a documentary a while back on your brother how he went through many catchphrases like “Man your battle stations” before he finally settled on “Let’s get ready to rumble.”
How did you develop “It’s time” and the 180 because they have become similar cultural phenomenons?
BB: Well thanks I appreciate that!
“It’s time” has definitely taken off and now I have 15,000 people in the stadium in Brazil yelling it back to me as I say it and they speak Portuguese!
I’m sure it’s going to happen in England, especially when I’m standing in front of Dan Hardy!
But I used to begin the show with [Begins using announcer voice] “IT’S TIME TO BEGIN THE ULTIMATE FIGHTING CHAMPIONSHIiiiiiiippppp! and I mean I was never phrase-driven, again I didn’t want to be Frank Sinatra Junior, I didn’t want to be my brother, I didn’t want a phrase.
I just went out, it came out and it took a life of its own...and a lot of the time the greatest marketing ideas just take a life of their own, you don’t have to market them! They just capture a life of their own, people just want to be part of it and buy it.
“It’s time” is growing and expanding rapidly but it’s still in a baby-stage and it’s up to me to market it correctly. So my App for the iPhone is out in a few weeks, there will be reminders on Alarm Clocks you know...[uses announcing voice] “IT’S TIME....TO GET YOUR ASS OUT OF BED” or [uses announcing voice again] “IT’S TIME TO MAKE LOVE TO MY WIFE” so you’ll have all these little things so you can set you reminders! “IT’S TIME TO FEED THE DOG....” You know - whatever the case might be...
JOE: ...so your voice and “It’s time to make love to your wife” is going to be heard in bedrooms throughout the country and the world...
BB: Oh yeah absolutely! I mean, wives, they need to be taken care of too...I mean sometimes husbands forget right?
JOE: Something to get them going...
BB: Hey I’ll do one for the wives too...but that’s just an example, we will have over 300 phrases on it! Ringtones, alarm clocks, reminder messages – I’m very excited about the App.
My book is also coming out and I’m starting my new clothing company “It’s Time Industries” which will be retailing into stores next year. This isn’t an idle MMA company with skulls and crossbones on the shirts; this is going to be a widespread, multi-demographic sports entertainment clothing company.
It’s going to be very first class and my partner is one of the biggest people in the clothing industry, though I can’t mention his name right now, he’s very famous and I think people are going to be very surprised at where this clothing company goes in the next few years.
JOE: We’ll watch out for that!
A lot of JOE fans like to know about the personalities behind the UFC and it’s quite hard to do it, so I think we should play a quick game of word association regarding the different personalities you work with and maybe you could describe them in two or three words...
BB: Cool, let’s go for it...
JOE: I’ll start off with Joe Rogan...
BB: Cerebral, tough, the best in the business.
JOE: Mike Goldberg?
BB: Passionate, always enthusiastic, and always positive.
JOE: ... and Dana White?
BB: A maverick in business, a leader and I call him my chief.
JOE: Give me your thoughts on UFC 93, the one and only time the UFC has been in the Republic of Ireland with a top main event of Dan Henderson versus Rich Franklin, it sold out. Do you remember much of that event?
BB: Great night of fights, great night of fan excitement and the best Guinness beer I have drunken in my life in Guinness’ home town.
JOE: Will you guys be back?
BB: I hope so!
It’s not my call, but trust me - I’d love to. I had a great time and the people were just fantastic.
That’s one thing I loved about Ireland – the way they treat us.
Each country has its own indivuality and Ireland certainly stands on its own.
The one thing I love about Irish and UK fans is that you are talking about some of the toughest people that have lived in the world ever – the people have been fighting their entire history.
They love fights, they appreciate it and they’ll definitely throw down after a couple of pints so you got to be careful sometimes!
JOE: In terms of great events and the best venues and best fighters to announce – what are the best places to be at and the best fighters to introduce to feed off the atmosphere?
BB: There’s no one in particular because you have to remember that I have announced every event for 17 years now – there’s just so many!
But to name a few that have been so exciting – Randy Couture is, of course, incredible to introduce. Rampage Jackson, Chuck Liddell – I can’t begin to tell you about those guys!
Dan Hardy is getting up there because our introductions are getting so entertaining because we’re feeding off each other at that moment – a lot of that is to do with Dan and because of his own enthusiasm about what he is about to do.
I could just go on and on and on because I have so many friend and so many great memories. It’s like asking me “What’s the best fight I saw?” The moment I think I have seen the best fight, two months later I see another great fight and that’s like the best fight I ever saw.
These are examples of why the UFC is growing so fast – because it provides so much entertainment.
Photo Credit: TitoCouture.com
JOE: Going to the UFC 152 card this weekend, Jon Jones is going to be fighting this time after what happened a couple of weeks ago with Jon Jones refusing to fight a new opponent three days before UFC 151 forcing the cancellation of that card.
I know a lot of fighters were upset and tweeting about Jon Jones costing them a payday...did that kind of remind you of the Randleman incident you mentioned earlier and did you feel a little let down because that seems to be the vibe coming from some of the fighters anyway?
BB: I was let down because I was looking forward to a great card of fights and I was let down because I could have booked myself for another event that weekend so I lost out on my own payday, but that’s okay.
I was more concerned about the fighters that didn’t get to fight and would they get paid. Then I read that most of them are getting their show money which made me very, very happy because these guys are putting their life on the line waiting for a fight at this point.
Jon Jones I have no complaint about, I can’t argue against his decision, he had the right to make that decision. It was not his fault the event got cancelled; it was only his fault that he didn’t want to fight another opponent on that night.
But in his position there is so much to think about – we’re talking about a multi-million dollar fighter who stands to make tens of millions of dollars in the future and he has to make the right decision. He wants to put on the best show possible so he’d like a little more than a week to train for an opponent...so I don’t want to argue against that. I don’t think you can argue against that. I just think we’re all a little bummed because we didn’t get our UFC that weekend.
And you know what? It’s gone, it’s done we’ve got a great card this weekend and it’s all back to normal.
JOE: I suppose we should talk about that and what an absolutely brilliantly stacked card UFC 152 is going to be. The main card looks fantastic...
BB: It’s incredible!
See...and there you go again – things happen and they happen for a reason and sometimes good things come out of them, so the past is the past and we’ve got a tremendous show this week which I am ecstatic about it. It makes me want to do a 360 just thinking about it!
I’m really looking forward to it!
JOE: My final question Bruce and back to a little word association...You announced so many nicknames in the UFC and we’ve got couple of big fighters here in Ireland and I’m going to name three guys and one girl here.
A few of them are titleholders on European-based promotions, they’ve always said their ambition is to fight for the UFC and there hasn’t been a native Irish UFC fighter as yet, but these guys could possibly do it and they have some unusual nicknames.
So I just want you to answer if the nickname works or not when I announce it to you.
BB: Okay let’s do it...
JOE: Chris “The Killing” Fields?
BB: Yeah...sounds good I’ll let that one go.
JOE: Our female fighter is Ais “The Bash” Daly...
BB: [Emphatically] Definitely works, no question!
JOE: There’s a guy who defended a title a few weeks back and has gone a good few fights undefeated at this stage...Philip “The Honey Badger” Mulpeter?
BB: [Laughs] I’d look forward to that one! I’d make that sound great!
JOE: Finally my favourite – I don’t know if you think it works – James “Sexual” Heelan...
BB: Well you know it’s like the song and the girls will probably go “oooh” and “aaaahhh” in the audience when I say it but listen I call Akiyama “Sexyama” so I’m sure I can get that off too.
Tell them all to keep them and let’s get in the Octagaon!
JOE: Thanks Bruce I appreciate the time, looking forward to seeing you on UFC 152 and hopefully I can treat you to a Guinness when the UFC comes back to Ireland.
BB: Very cool, well I tell you what - I’ll definitely down a few pints of good old-fashioned Guinness with you when we get over!
UFC 152 is live on ESPN on late Saturday night/Sunday morning.