Issue 201

January 2024

He's the "Voice of the Octagon," and one of the essential – and most popular – figures in the UFC. Bruce Buffer has travelled around the world countless times, announcing fights, helping crown champions and providing the in-cage soundtrack to legendary MMA moments. Fighters Only's Tony Reid caught up with him and found a man whose enthusiasm for the sport remains undimmed.

As far as your in Octagon resume, you are the G.O.A.T. of G.O.A.T.s,with no one even in the same universe as far as performance, track record or impact, yet you still continue to elevate your game and your amazing output. Your announcement of and interaction with fighters has become an amazing crescendo and spectacular moment in its own right. Can you pinpoint when it leveled up and became that organic, spectacular face to face moment you share with many fighters now?

First off, thank you for all the kind words, Tony. You are making me blush! I have been at this now, come February, 28 years. It’s like an evolutionary process. As I develop my tools and further my passion for what I do, I never know what I am going to do until I do it. I never rehearse, other than writing on my fight cards and make sure phonetically I have the names down.

As soon as I walk into the arena and I feel the energy in the crowd, that is what gets me going. The more energy, the better. The more reaction from the fighters, the better. I don’t hear anything going on around me, crowd wise.

Lately, I have been hearing they are repeating a lot of the words I say during my announcements, which blows me away. It gets so loud. I am looking straight into the eye of the tiger. I don’t stand center. I have to move. I have to let everything fly.

There were a couple of fighters years ago that started interacting with me, throwing out a fist bump. I never instigate the first bump. It’s an honor that they want to throw a fist bump or acknowledge my announcement of them. I give it back to them. I give them everything I can with my passion, with my voice and with my lung power to take them to that next level.

Over the last half dozen years, aside from me getting over into their space and getting them going, they started to interact with me, even to the point of walking up and going head to head with me. You notice Paul Craig who comes right at me. I know Michael Chiesa is going to get right in my face when I start announcing him. They will pump their first, they want me to come into the corner and give them as much as I can possibly give them. It is a very fun and energetic interaction that gets me going, too. I think it’s very entertaining for the crowd watching.

Here is a very key point I want to point out. The show is not about me. It’s about the fighters. My job is to take the fighters to the next level, to the highest level that I can. Of course, it’s also about the fans. It about giving the fans as much energy and as much entertainment that I can give them and as much as a grandiose introduction to their fighters and warriors battling it out in the Octagon that I can give them. That is my job and I will do whatever it takes to give that. Some moments they just rise to another level based on the interaction with the fighter wanting me to interact with them.

You've said that each fighter puts their respective life on the line inside the Octagon and that, in turn, you have to give them every ounce of energy you have. Can you describe your mindset and emotion as you're standing in the Octagon mentally focused and physically warming up just prior to the fighter introductions? What is going on in the Bufferzone in that moment?

The fighters are putting their life, their blood, their sweat and their tears on the line for our entertainment. I want to take them to the highest level. At the same time. I like to kid that I get into my own Bufferzone before I go out and introduce these great warriors.

I am sitting down, up and down for six to eight hours during a show. When it comes time for a main event, a co main event or any specific introduction, I want to loosen up. I have been an athlete my whole life. I stay very limber. I am very flexible and move very fast and do what I want to do but I want to loosen my body up. It’s almost like getting ready to go out there and not bang, but just go out there and perform. I want to be loose and ready to roll and give it my all. I don’t want to be stiff. I am getting my body into it. I am getting my head into it. I am getting into the zone so I go out there and give 100 percent of all the energy, the passion, the lung power and love I have for this sport to introduce these great warriors. I kid about it and say I am getting myself into the Bufferzone.

You are a brand builder and entrepreneur. Since the last time we spoke, you released your signature cologne, It's Time, as well as Puncher’s Chance, your signature bourbon and a number of other products. What inspires you to continue to build and grow? What types of products or ideas move the needle for you today and ignites that entrepreneurial spirit?

I have been an entrepreneur my whole life. I had my first company when I was 19 years old. I stopped going to college to pursue my entrepreneurial spirit. I owned a number of different companies in a variety of different areas until I got into sports and entertainment.

When I met my brother Michael Buffer later in life, and became his manager, he hadn’t even properly trademarked or branded the great phrase "Let’s Get Ready to Rumble." That is something I pursued and together we built that brand strong.

Then I got involved with the UFC and aside from being the announcer I wanted to do everything I could to do my part to promote and build the brand. They (the UFC) did all the work, obviously. I could see the great potential in the UFC and I wanted to do whatever I could to help. I feel that I am a brand builder and "It’s Time" over the years, has become a very strong brand to the point that you don’t want to let it go to waste. You want to build around it and I used the proper business plan and acumen that I have.

Now that it is a brand with me promoting it all the time in many different areas, whether it’s the UFC, the NFL, anything from beer pong to basketball to ice hockey, anywhere I get the honor of appearing, that’s building a brand. You want to take that and properly put it into other areas that involve products. I have always been a lover of fine toiletries for men. I have wanted to have my own scent for quite a number of years, which is why I came out with It’s Time cologne. It will be followed by a line of toiletries and a body wash, facial products, moisturizers and everything that a man who likes to take care of himself likes to use. I have a line of toiletries coming out.

Puncher’s Chance has won about 20 gold and platinum awards and medals. It was just called a top five best sipping bourbon in America. I am very proud of that. It’s one thing to build a brand and come up with a product but it’s another thing to come out with fine products that are recognized for being good products as well as selling well. It’s Time cologne has been a top seller on Amazon for a year now. I’m about to come out with the It’s Time energy and hydration drinks, which I am very proud of. They are formulated and very healthy. This is going to be very exciting. This is one of the biggest products I will be coming out with in 2024.

I am a founder of the company, which I am very proud about as it offers all major athletes from around the world the opportunity to brand themselves. We create their own branded line of merchandise. They have the ability to interact with their fans. I want the fighters to have avenues to earn money and income other than the paychecks they receive on fight night. Basically, it’s a way to help them build their brands. I am trying to give back, with my co-founders and partners, in to allow all athletes from every major sport to find other avenues to earn income and build their brands.  

Years ago, relatively early on in your video recording message venture, you recorded the introduction to my wife, Michelle and my wedding reception, which clearly is a moment we will cherish forever. Your custom recordings business has only expanded for you over the years. How special is it to be able to lend your voice and your amazing performances to so many special events for people around the world?

It’s an honor and a privilege. I love to do that, whether its weddings, birthdays, birth of babies, championship introductions like you are being introduced in the Octagon, I can go on and on with the requests. You can go to my website and I am also one of the top video recorders on Cameo. The thank you notes that my partner and I receive, especially with weddings and the birth of babies, it brings tears to your eyes. You realize you were a part of their special moment and a part of their special day. I take alot of pride in that. Sure everybody makes money off what they do but you have to take pride in the fact that you are giving back and making people happy. I like making people happy. I like pleasing the fans. We are where we are and we make the money we make and we enjoy the positons we are in because of the incredible UFC fans that are out there. I want to make sure that I give back and that I can be of service to fans the way they are a service to us. 

The world knows you're a rock star and that was just further confirmed when you had the opportunity to announce the Las Vegas Raiders in the team's home opener at Allegiant Stadium in September of last year, alongside Carlos Santana and Nelly, who also performed. You posted that amazing image of you facing the enormous crowd with the drums and set up behind you. You looked like Freddie Mercury out there with Queen. Finally, having an NFL team in Las Vegas and all that entails, what was that experience like?

I can’t even describe the feeling. It’s an amazing feeling. You walk out in front of 70,000 plus fans. I am on Jumbotron. I am roaring to the crowd and they are reacting as soon as I walk out. It’s an honor and a privilege and I am humbled by it. It makes all of the work and all the effort I put in over 30 years in sports and entertainment worth it to be able to culminate in the one grandiose moment. I love walking out for the Raiders. I love opening football games. I have opened up for the Dodgers. I have thrown out the first pitch. I have done so many different sports. I always joke around that I will be the first person to cash a check first thing on Monday morning at the bank but it’s really about the experience. You can’t forget those experiences that will be in my mind and I will cherish forever. I love it. I love those moments. 

You draw such energy from the crowds at UFC fights, F1 races, baseball games and so much more. How does that energy differ and how do you draw from each specific crowd and situation?

Every event has its own flavor and you just have to appreciate what you are getting at every single event. I walk out at a UFC event and its anywhere from 15,000 to upwards of 50,000 people at Rogers Center in Toronto when I severed my ACL introducing Georges St. Pierre in front of everybody. Granted, I lost a knee but it sure was an amazing event to be at. You just have to cherish every moment. Whether it’s 20,000 Portuguese speaking Brazilians in Rio de Janeiro saying “Its Time” with me when I say it or in England where fight fans are so rabid that 10,000 fans sound like 100,000. Every city and every arena, every experience, every different sporting event, I can’t say one is better than the other I just appreciate and cherish each and every one of them. It’s amazing to be on the receiving end of all that energy.

Speaking of that, what is being on the receiving end of all that energy like? Can you put into words that feeling in those moments?

It’s an adrenaline rush that feeds my energy even more so that I can give back even more. I admire rock singers and guitarists when they are on stage doing solos and the crowd is going crazy. I always thought that must be an amazing experience to be able to feel that energy coming back at you. I guess in my own way that is kind of what it’s like for me, feeling that energy coming back. I will say it again, the show is not about me. I am just there to enhance that moment. 

In February, you celebrated your 27th year as the UFC announcer and the Voice of The Octagon. When you step out of the Octagon for the last time, whenever that may be, what is the single lasting impression you want to leave on this sport?

That’s interesting. This is tough, Tony. I want to thank everyone, including the powers that be, for allowing me to do what I’ve done. I want everyone to know that I love and cherish every moment of my career and I always gave everything I could to make these moments special. It’s been an honor and a privilege to be the Voice of the Octagon for all of these years. I want everybody to know I always gave it my all.