FightHype.com recently got a chance to speak with the official voice of the octagon, Bruce Buffer. Buffer talks about the phenomenal rise of the UFC, the differences and similarites between boxing and mixed martial arts, as well as his thoughts on some of the biggest upsets and most thrilling moments of the UFC. Plus, you don't want to miss what he had to say about his infamous elevator brawl with Frank Trigg and much more. Check it out! [Editor's note: Special thanks to Gary Randall]
PC: How are you doing Bruce?
BB: I'm doing great, thank you!
PC: ESPN is now covering the UFC and two UFC fighters were nominated for ESPY'S. What do you think of the growth of the sport?
BB: I think the growth of the sport is phenomenal. If you look at where we've come from in '93, when we started, there's a popular term out there, "from spectacle to sport" and basically what we've reached right now is the mainstream of sports; which is why every news organization and sports organization is starting to cover the UFC. The fact that ESPN has stepped up to bat as far as I'm concerned is a sign that we've made it. I think it's fantastic. It's what the pioneers of the sport have been working hard for the past 12-15 years.
PC: What do you think the biggest misconception was about the UFC in '93?
BB: I think the biggest misconception with some people was that it was a brutal street fight. Bar room brawlers standing on bar stools fighting it out inside an octagon and that anybody could get in there. Now people are starting to realize the level of athletic competition and the quality of the athlete getting into the octagon. Here's an example: it took me a couple of years to convince Charles Barkley to go to one of the UFCs. Charles Barkley, of course, is qualified to judge fine athleticism with all of his years in the NBA. The next day, after the show at the Mandalay Bay, he came up to me and he says, "you know Bruce, I have to thank you. I gotta tell you these are the most finely conditioned athletes in the world." I think that's a major statement coming from Charles Barkley. It just shows you the appreciation that the A-level fighters in mixed martial arts are getting in the octagon.
PC: It seems so hard to market a champion in the UFC right now with all of the upsets. Do you think the upsets are good for the sport or would you rather see these champions on long winning streaks like Liddell was before the Rampage fight?
BB: Well, that's a good question and I could understand it because we're so used to boxing where champions hold the belts for a very extended period of time; which could be because they are great champions, which I like to see, or because of the fights they've been set up to fight, which is based on the promoter. The UFC is still pure in which it will be for a long time. It's a pure fighting sport. I don't believe that there will ever be an undefeated champion in the octagon because you're talking about a fighting sport versus 2 weapons to where there are over 20 weapons. A man could be winning the fight for 4 rounds in a championship fight and make one mistake and lose his title in the 5th round. What happens is when a dominant champion like Chuck Liddell loses his title to Rampage Jackson, yeah the poster boy isn't the champion anymore, but it creates three other great fights that could happen against the other top champions in the sport. To me, that extends the excitement and the marketability. You should never market your business on one great fighter because this is the fighting game and fighters do fall from greatness.
PC: You've been the voice of the octagon for quite some time now. Which fight do you feel had the most electric atmosphere coming into the cage?
BB: You know, this should be a question that I should be able to answer right off the bat, but it's one of the most difficult questions for me to answer. Every one is like the greatest event we've ever had. I just came off of one like that recently. Tito Ortiz vs. Ken Shamrock 1, the excitement level was unequal inside the octagon. When Randy Couture came back and won the championship fight beating the giant Tim Sylvia and dominating him for 5 rounds, that was an elevated moment at that time. When Rampage Jackson came in and knocked down Chuck, again that was an elevated moment. That's why the sport is so exciting because it keeps elevating itself to new levels and that's what we all like to see in the sport that we love to watch.
PC: From what I hear, the Buffer Brothers are no joke. What happened between you and Frank Trigg in the elevator?
BB: (laughing) Frank and I walk into the elevator and Dana White and a security man was in the elevator. We're all talking and the doors hadn't even closed yet on the 10th floor of the Hard Rock hotel and Frank was basically pitching himself to get back into the octagon. I got in front of his eye view of Dana, admiring Dana's wristband, and Frank reacted in a cocky way and he wrist tapped me in the throat to move me aside. Well I'm sorry, but nobody is going to hit me in the throat. My reaction was, "Frank what the hell did you hit me for?" and he made a big mistake. He said, "What are you going to do about it?" I'm old time street in my own world, so I reacted the way I would react any way and I punched him twice in the stomach and it was on for 10 floors on the elevator. We never hit each other in the face, but we went at it. Dana, Mike Goldberg and the security guy were up against the side of the elevator and when we got to the bottom floor, it had ended to where I had Frank in a rear naked choke, but I didn't clamp it down and I let it go. I noticed I had blood on my shirt and I had to go to the hospital and get 5 stitches in my hand and we were all laughing afterwards. Kind of like boys being boys, and I went and got stitched up and partied that night. I had a great time. I announced in the octagon that I got into it with one of the top 10 welterweights in an elevator. Welcome to my world. It was great. I felt like I was 25 years old all over again, although I don't recommend people do that.
[Editor's note: For a complete recap of Buffer vs. Trigg, check out what Bruce had to say on Frank Trigg's radio show at http://taggradio.com/archives/20070619.mp3]
PC: Well it was obvious you studied film on Frank. You locked a rear naked choke on him?
BB: (laughing) Yeah, we know Frank is a little susceptible to the rear naked. I don't pretend to be on the level that these guys are, but you have to stand up for what you believe. You should never ever tap anybody or hit anybody in the throat. Plus I'm an announcer, so the last thing you want to try and do is hit me in the throat.
PC: We're not going to see your octagon debut any time soon, are we?
BB: No, I just turned 50. I did do amateur kickboxing and I've certainly banged a lot in the ring doing kickboxing and I've always loved it, but the fact of the matter is, I may feel like I'm 30 in my world, but realistically, I'm a lover not a fighter. I wear a tuxedo. I get blood on me once in a while, but it's not because I'm trading punches.
PC: The UFC has a new video game coming out as well. What do you think of that concept?
BB: They've done about 5 or 6 video games. I pose as the voice playing the announcer; being myself and fighting as a fighter in my tuxedo as a hidden character. I just agreed to a contract for 3 to 4 UFC games over a number of years and I'm very excited because ign.com just published the trailer for the new video game and it is unbelievable. It looks amazing. Gary Randall looked at it and he knows video games inside and out and he was absolutely blown away. I can't wait to be a part of this game. They tell me I'll be fighting in Ultimate Fighter shorts, so I told them to make sure they call me 2 weeks before I'm supposed to be filmed so I can be in shape. I want to get the 4-pack together.
PC: You're also the CEO of Buffer Enterprises. Could you tell us some of the things you guys are involved with right now?
BB: The main thing with Buffer Enterprises is the licensing and promotional company for sports entertainment. It's something that I take passionately and close to heart is the management and direction of my brother Michael Buffer, Let's Get Ready To Rumble Sports Entertainer/Announcer. As we all know, Michael is the greatest announcer out there. Nobody comes close to him in the boxing ring. He set the mold for the ring announcer to be noticed. Michael is more than just a one-dimensional ring announcer. I know people see him in the ring with his famous saying, but he has other talents that I like and we work on. Plus our brand, which is formally trademarked, and I market in many different areas outside of the boxing ring. It's never experienced anything like in 15 minutes, where it will come and go away. It's a brand that is probably one of the most popular brands in American culture right now. I create video games and toys in many areas that are a form of life type of thing and that's a full time effort with Buffer Enterprises and that's what we focus on here.
PC: Michael definitely expanded outside of boxing recently with his appearance on the BET Awards. How did that come about?
BB: The BET Awards, well there's really nobody that can set off an event, and I'm speaking very objectively about this, but nobody could set off an event like when the Rumble Man (that's what I call him) walks out...once people recognize the tuxedo. Michael has a huge following amongst the fans at the BET Awards and they happened to call him the week before and they wanted to fill a minute when Monique was about to come out. They had a few different choices, but their choice was to have Michael come out and do his thing. He came out and did it so well. Michael has no problem creating humor with what he does and he tweaked everything to fit the award show and it was exciting and humorous and it really added to the show. I thought it was great.
PC: What is your take on the whole MMA/boxing debate?
BB: My take is that it is two different fighting sports and treated as such, but everybody has to say boxing is dead, boxing is alive or MMA is the hottest thing happening. I get that all the time. People say boxing is dying. I have to say, "No, boxing is not dying." It's a very simple thing. You have two different fighting sports. Everything is cycling and what is happening in boxing is it's shot itself in the foot to the point where it is. It's still a great sport with a huge following and it's resurging, especially in Europe, it's going crazy. It's just no personalities driving the sport. We all know the heavyweight division is the dominant driving force behind boxing. It's a matter of creating and developing a new personality to bring boxing up to it's awareness, but the main key here is that mixed martial arts has a stranglehold on the 18-34 male demographic, which is strictly watching mixed martial arts and watching a specific boxing. That's where the issue is. The Wallstreet Journal wrote something about this recently and they quoted the fact that boxing has become our father's sport and mixed martial arts are bringing in the young generation. I feel that is true. The UFC has made Spike TV and Spike TV has ignited the UFC to levels that are astronomical and that's really what you have there. Everything in life is marketing and cycling. The UFC will go through a cycle in 3-5 years, but in my opinion, for the next 3-5 years, we're a locomotive going uphill and I'm happy to be in the front cabin. I consider being one of the faces of the sport a true honor.
PC: Who would you give your upset of the year to thus far?
BB: Matt Serra knocking out George St. Pierre with no question. There's an example that boxing fans would enjoy because this is an example where a striker nails a guy, which is the only chance a boxer has in an octagon. 99% of the time, the boxer will lose in the 1st round as well 99.9% of the time, the UFC champion will lose in the boxing ring. It's just the matter of the sport. Matt Serra jumped on St. Pierre and just like any good finisher, he did not give him a chance to recover and that was the most amazing upset I've seen all year.
PC: It's been a pleasure speaking with you Bruce. Is there anything you would like to say in closing?
BB: I believe that boxing is a great sport and I believe that mixed martial arts is a great sport and people need to take a look at them and understand and appreciate how great both sports are and watch them equally. I'm proud to be a part of the UFC and if anybody would like to get in touch with me, go to bufferzone.net and I'll be happy to answer any questions or anything anyone wants to know about the sport. I'm very pleased to see that there are a lot of great fans out there and very pleased that you all are fans of boxing and mixed martial arts and thank you for the interview.
[ Follow Percy Crawford on Twitter @MrFighthype ]