Bruce Buffer has been the ‘Official Voice of the Octagon’ for the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) since 1997 and continues to announce UFC events internationally. Bruce is President & CEO of Buffer Enterprises, Inc., through which he manages his entrepreneurial ventures.
He has proven himself as a motivational speaker and has received praise from across the industry for his management and guidance of the successful career of his brother, Michael Buffer, the world-famous sports and entertainment announcer. Bruce’s work involves the creation, design and management of all product and promotional licensing surrounding Michael Buffer’s world famous, ‘Let’s Get Ready to Rumble®’ trademark phrase, which has grown into a major international enterprise with over $400 million in retail sales. He is also a successful writer & podcaster.
In this interview, I speak to Bruce Buffer, Entrepreneur, Announcer & Icon of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). We discuss the power and attraction of combat sports, the growth of the UFC, and dive into what it really takes to prepare, fight and succeed in one of the world’s most extreme sports.
Q: What is the role of the announcer in UFC?
[Bruce Buffer]: The announcer sets the tone for the show, but it’s not about me – it’s about the fighters. I’m there to provide every bit of energy, passion, lung power and voice power I can to take them from the hype and excitement they feel walking into the octagon- to the next level before they start throwing down. I’m there to excite the fighters, and the fans – that’s my job and that’s how I look at it.
Q: When you started in UFC, did you realise the scale of how successful it was going to become?
[Bruce Buffer]: 27 years ago, when I started in UFC, I knew it was going to be one of the biggest things in sports- honestly. It was always a spectacle, but needed refining to become a mainstream, extreme sport. You’re dealing with fighters, the finest fighting warriors in the world who have an answer for everything that’s thrown at them. We’ve always been fascinated with fighting in the movies right…. Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris… Seagal… this [UFC] is the apex reality of fighting. All the excitement we used to get from watching those movies we can now watch in reality. The men and women who come into the octagon are also really fascinating, have incredible stories, incredible personalities- UFC really captures you… it captures hearts and minds.
[Vikas: Is that what really sets the great fighters apart? The characters?]
[Bruce Buffer]: … you have fighters like Conor McGregor, Ronda Rousey, Sean O’Malley, Paddy Pimblett… they have ‘it’ – they capture the hearts and minds of fans inside and outside the octagon. All our fighters are fantastic, they all have to be highly, highly skilled – but certain personalities stand-out… people who the audience cannot wait to see fight. People who the audience cannot wait to hear… to follow… those are the fighters who have that extra ‘it’ factor.
Q: What is the level of preparation before fighters reach the octagon?
[Bruce Buffer]: The level of preparation before fighters’ step into the octagon is huge – at minimum fighters will train for 6-8 week, non-stop at camp, just for this 3 or 5, 5 minute-a-round battle. It is complete dedication. It is the loneliest sport in the world when it comes to it…. you are training with your team, you are getting prepared to fight with your team, but once you enter the octagon and that gate closes? It is you alone – apart from the fleeting moment you have between rounds. To achieve what our fighters achieve? You need true warrior spirit, dedication, and discipline – you must be consistent with all your efforts. The life of a fighter is impossible to understand unless you live it.
Q: How do fighters balance the tension between enemy, and equal?
[Bruce Buffer]: There is an old saying in martial arts… blood and honour. In battle, you battle, but afterwards there’s respect (unless you truly hate your opponent!). I mean…. you have people coming into the octagon who dislike each other, and trash talk each other to death in the weeks leading up to a fight, but after they throw down? It’s a hug and it’s mutual respect. You’re giving everything in that place- you’ve done everything you can apart from dying, and you’ve shared that with this other individual. You shared blood, tears, sweat and competition. It’s the height of challenge- and once that challenge is over, the better man or woman wins in that moment – and so the opponents have nothing but respect for each other. What else can they do?
Q: What did the martial arts give you?
[Bruce Buffer]: Discipline… Respect….
I was raised to respect everybody and to treat everybody as an equal – but going into the martial arts taught me discipline. It taught me about honour. It taught me about self-sacrifice. It taught me about how to achieve my goals consistently – and how to put everything into something. The martial arts taught me how to believe in myself and follow my passion.
I’ve been passionate about martial arts my whole life – and I live my life with passion. Here I am, doing a job in the octagon which I’m passionate about, a job that I’ve been able to monetise, and which truly feels like a lifestyle for me.
[Vikas: … so what does success mean to you?]
[Bruce Buffer]: When I set a goal for myself, and achieve that goal, that’s what winning is to me. When you set out on that yellow-brick-road of life to fulfil your goals, just be the best you can be – and whether that means you finish as champion, first, second, tenth, whatever… if you’ve done your best? You’re winning. The martial arts however can teach you a lot about how to perform – how to dig deep – and how to be better than you think you can be. That’s the stronghold of what true martial arts are, and the theory behind the mental aspects of this sport.
Q: How do you see your own fame, in relation to that of the fighters?
[Bruce Buffer]: It’s important for me to stay humble. I appreciate everything I have – and wake up every morning with UFC written on my chest like a superman emblem. I’m happy to represent the UFC and cherish every day that I’m considered the voice of the octagon. It’s a great honour for me- every time I step into that place. There’s thousands of people out there- men and women- probably waiting for me to drop dead so they can take my position, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I’ve done the show with a blown-out back, with one leg, coming off laryngitis, coming off or having a 103 degree fever. I don’t tell anyone about it – I’ve even been in that octagon a week after a major operation. The bottom line is this… I go in there to do my job – the men and women fighting are actually putting their lives on the line – I’m just announcing! It doesn’t matter what’s going on with me…. they’re fighting…. I can get through, do my job without complaining, and get on…… they’re taking punches in the face, I’m just holding a microphone! I have nothing to complain about or make excuses for, the show must go on!
Q: What do you hope your legacy will be?
[Bruce Buffer]: I just want everyone to know that when I stepped into the octagon, I always gave it 100% of everything I had, to fulfil everything I was supposed to do. I wanted to create excitement, to exude and share the passion I have for the sport and to bring the fighters and fans to a higher level than they’re already at. If I’ve done that? It means I’ve done my job. I hope that people look back and see that I always gave it my all – and perhaps remember me with respect for that. I always give my best, and that’s all I can do – whether you love me, like me or dislike me, just know that I always gave it my all.
When it comes to it, I think we’re in this world to make people happy – and be the best we can be. That’s how I look at it. I have always wanted to be a good role model for the sport, and to continue to maintain my first-class seat on the UFC rocket ship being piloted by Dana White and the powers that be. It’s an amazing experience.