The Voice of the Octagon has, for 22 years, made sure UFC fans have the right energy with his patented “IT’S TIME!”. Bruce Buffer is a fascinating person, half-brother to Michael “Let’s get ready to Rumble” Buffer, successful poker player, podcast host, author and businessman. He takes time to answer all our questions about his own martial arts background, UFC’s new owners, his preparations for UFC events, the suits and what names that are most difficult to present in the octagon! IT’S TIME FOR BRUCE BUFFEEEER!
"I HEARD YOU'RE A KICKBOXER? ROYCE SAID. COME ON, TRY TO TAKE MY HEAD OFF!"
Fail to succeed
Those who know Bruce’s background are aware of that he has trained judo, kickboxing and has a black belt in the Korean martial art Tang Soo Do. MMA didn’t exist when Bruce was an active martial artist, but he did spar with fighters from all possible styles. One sparring memory sticks out. “I met a nice gentleman named Royce Gracie in 1991, so two years prior to UFC 1, and I got invited to his dojo to spar. ‘I heard you’re a kickboxer?’ Royce said. ‘Come on, try to take my head off!’. One minute later I was on the ground, getting choked out. He straightened his gi and said something I’ll never forget: ‘Isn’t it nice to not get punched in the face?’. Two years later I’m watching UFC 1 and in comes Royce, and I tell my friends that this kid will beat every one of these guys, just watch!”
A young Bruce Buffer demonstrating some fighting skills.
Bruce is successful in many areas and it’s easy to get the feeling that he succeeds with everything he tries. “The first company I started got involved in a lawsuit with the people I previously worked for, and that was a failure. Here’s the thing, you don’t really know what it’s like to succeed if you never have failed. Look at fighters as Conor McGregor, who suffered a loss to Nate Diaz, and then comes back and wins. That’s the mark of a true entrepreneur, the mark of a true fighter. Also, the hardest part is not to become successful, but to maintain that success and keep it going. I just celebrated my 22nd year as the Voice of the Octagon and I have had plenty of ups and downs on this long road.”
"I HAVE TO DO MY BEST TO PROVE TO MYSELF, TO THE PEOPLE I WORK FOR AND TO MY FANS, THAT I DESERVE TO BE THERE"
Independent of profession, it’s not unusual to lose motivation after 20 years. But Bruce explains that he is still motivated and it all depends on the attitude and mindset. “My motivation within myself is to be the best I can be. I walk out to the octagon every time looking at it as my very first show, meaning I have to do my best to prove to myself, to the people I work for and to my fans, that I deserve to be there. Points of success in the past are great, but it’s all about what I can do today. I also have a tremendous passion, which is a key ingredient to continue this long!”
Passion and motivation are still on top for Bruce Buffer, after 22 years as the Voice of the Octagon.
Times of change
Much in the UFC remains the same year after year, but a lot has also changed with time. People who the fans viewed as key individuals of the UFC, e.g. Mike Goldberg, Burt Watson and Jacob “Stitch” Duran, have had to move on, in spite of protests from the fans. We ask Bruce if he has ever been worried for his own sake in these times. “To be honest, no, I have not been worried about my position. I’ve always prided myself with being the most dedicated, loyal employee and ambassador for the UFC that I can be. I don’t create problems, I do my job and I respect everybody around me. Not that the people you mentioned didn’t, that’s not what I’m saying. But I have not felt any reason to worry.”
"THE SHORTER THE NAME, WITH LESS SYLLABLES, THE MORE I HAVE TO THINK ABOUT HOW TO GET IT TO SOUND GOOD"
Some of the changes have of course come from the owner shift in the UFC, to WME-IMG and the two partners Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell. They have both stayed out of the spotlight since they bought the company and not speaking to media. “I’ve known Ari for years before he bought the UFC. He’s an amazing business man, a very interesting man, very driven and athletic. He would be in the gym 5 AM and then go on to his day! His partner, Patrick Whitesell, is another gentleman that I respect and like. They run the biggest entertainment agency in the world, and handle the biggest entertainment clients in the world. They know marketing so well, and it’s not their job to be in the spotlight. They have Dana who’s doing a great job, and then it comes down to the fighters and all the other personalities and faces of the UFC.”
Bruce and his boss, UFC president Dana White.
We ask Bruce to guide us through his preparations for a UFC event and also explain how he makes sure he pronounces every fighter name correctly. “I make sure I’m prepared before I arrive at the location, and I spend a couple of hours more to prepare my fight cards. On the day of the event, I like to train in the morning, have a power breakfast and a little meditation. From that point forward it’s like an eight hour work day. Besides the announcing in the octagon, it’s about being an ambassador, shaking hands, saying hello and taking pictures. About the names, the UFC is such a well-oiled machine, so they make sure that we have recordings of the fighters saying their names by themselves. We are very careful about the respect to the fighters and to get the names right. The shorter the name, with less syllables, the more I have to think about how to get it to sound good. Compare the difference for example between MIIIIIIIKE SWIIIIIICK and KHAAABIIIIB NURMAGAMEEEDOOOOV! With more syllables there’s so much more to work with!”
Bruce is usually the most well-dressed of all when it’s time for a UFC event, and he tells us about the process of choosing his suits. “I choose them myself, together with my exclusive tailor in Canada, called My King & Bay. You can look them up on Instagram, they’re amazing! I have a meeting with them this week to go over the next 5-6 outfits. The choice of suit depends on the show, and you can see that I go from a classic conservative look to a wild, Prince type look once in a while. Some shows are extremely special, like UFC 200, and then I really want to take it to the next level.”
Have you ever been afraid that you would have to wear a Reebok suit? “Haha, if they want to negotiate that, we’ll talk about it!”
Bruce in action, always in impeccable outfits.
Over the years, Bruce has traveled the world, met fans and experienced the differences between the crowds in different countries. “Every country has it’s own distinct flavor. Ireland is amazing, in Brazil they go crazy, as they do in the UK. They’ll scream IT’S TIME back to me, saying the words I say while I’m saying the standard lines. Tokyo is quiet, in a respectful way and they get excited when someone gets thrown to the ground. Sweden can be toned down and then ignited, like a fire! It’s my job to draw that out of you.”
"THESE ARE THE PEOPLE WHO PAY YOUR PAYCHECK, IT'S REALLY THAT SIMPLE!"
”There has been a number of crazy experiences with the fans over the years. They’ve all been good, some pretty wild and some I can’t talk about, haha! But as a rule the fans are amazing. We are where we are in the UFC and the sport of MMA thanks to the fans. As long as people are respectful, I sign every autograph and take every picture. It’s important to be a good role model to the young generation. I can’t understand celebrities who don’t give their fans any time. It doesn’t matter who you are, you should sign that autograph and take that picture! These are the people who pay your paycheck, it’s really that simple!’”
Work in progress in Bruce's recording studio.
”I want to let the fans know that if you go to brucebuffer.com, you can get your own audio or video introduction, as a championship fighter in the cage! I also do weddings, birthdays, birth of babies and voicemail messages. You can order an personalized audio intro for $99 USD, and part of the proceeds go to children, military and animal charities here in the US, and you’ll get a keepsake for the rest of your life. The thank you notes I get are amazing and sometimes I get tears in my eyes reading them. The fans love it!”
So, who does Bruce suggest we interview next? “John McCarthy is a great interview. Obviously, Dana White would be an amazing interview!”
We thank Bruce Buffer for his time, and look forward to follow him for many years to come!
"I'll be back!" vs. "IT'S TIME!"
Text: Pelle Axelsson